Normally when taxpayers take a 38-percent bath on a real estate deal, there’s little cause for optimism.
During Tuesday’s city council meeting — the last meeting for Mayor Robert Smith and councilmen Bill Gavin and Charlie Box — the council voted unanimously to sell the old Gilmer Inn property to Financial Concepts, a local company, for $270,000, which is the property’s appraised value. Six years ago, the city purchased the property at a cost of $425,000, so Tuesday’s decision means the city lost $155,000 on the deal.
There will be some who point to the transaction as another example of the city’s poor financial management and there is some merit to that view, certainly.
But in the case of the Gilmer Inn, there were and remain other factors that should not be ignored when the matter is viewed more broadly.
At the time of the 2015 sale, the Gilmer Inn had deteriorated to the point that it was both an eyesore, an embarrassment and a threat to public health, a rundown property that had become a haven for petty criminals located on the doorstep to the city’s otherwise appealing downtown.
At the time of the sale, it may have been less a matter of what the property could be than what it had become.
Various uses for the site have been rumored over the past six years: boutique hotel, part of an abandoned plan for a children’s museum and a mixed-use development.
Now, a year after the city paid off its $650,000 loan from Columbus Light and Water (money used to purchase the Gilmer along with a building next door), the city has struck a deal to sell the property.
Financial Concepts will build a new office for its operations along with space devoted to retail and apartments.
We have long since learned not to hold our breath where that property is concerned, but Financial Concepts CEO Scott Ferguson said the plans call to begin work on the project this fall and could be completed before the end of 2022.
At that point, the city will be able to get a return on that deal through ad valorem and sales taxes.
If the project turns out as planned, the city will have put to bed a headache, and an expensive one at that.
That will mean an eyesore has become an asset.
And that’s reason enough for optimism.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.