Decatur officials should market old warehouse
Now that the lone suitor for the city-owned former Decatur Utilities warehouse has decided to take its business to Hartselle, city officials would be wise to aggressively market the building.
Herb Underwood and Rod Ross wanted to buy the vacant building on First Avenue Northeast for $95,600 and renovate it for an Italian restaurant. But city officials correctly insisted on determining the fair-market value before selling the structure to the highest bidder. The months-long delay proved too protracted for the potential buyers, who were eager to get their eatery up and running before the end of this year.
While that deal is apparently dead, city officials should not return the building to the back burner.
It was perhaps prudent — and certainly conservative— for the city to try to get the best possible return on the solid downtown structure. City officials have a fiduciary responsibility to look out for the taxpayers' best interest in any real estate transaction.
On the other hand, taxpayers don't expect the city to hang on to vacant buildings for years on end. Unoccupied buildings like the old warehouse and the old Robinson Furniture building tend to deteriorate rapidly and lose value. Occupied by viable businesses, they generate property tax revenue and, depending on the nature of the tenant's business, possibly sales-tax revenue as well.
City officials should not wait for another suitor to come calling before determining the value of the property and placing it on the market. They should have it appraised now and aggressively seek a buyer who will put the building to practical use, maintain it and return it to something of value to the community.