No sale in office building auction

December 18, 2009
By

David Taber

Bank in negotiations with potential buyer

PONDSIDE—The foreclosure auction of the office building at 891 Centre St. ended Nov. 20 with mortgage holder Citizens Bank making the high bid—essentially declining to sell—bank spokesperson Nancy Orlando told the Gazette this week.

Citizens is “in negotiations with a third party interested in buying the building,” Orlando told the Gazette. She declined to say who the third party is, citing customer confidentiality.

The building, known as the “Boy Scouts building” for a former owner and tenant, now has 10 tenants, according to a sign at its front entrance. They include local non-profits the Emerald Necklace Conservancy and Union of Minority Neighborhoods (UMN).

“We think the building has been sold, but we don’t know for sure,” Horace Small, director of UMN, told the Gazette.

The building’s auction saga started Sept. 22 and has dragged through the fall. The auction was started and suspended at the bank’s request that day when bidding did not go high enough. It was then postponed to Sept. 25, then Oct. 21, and finally Nov. 20.

Jack Fay, a local resident who attended the Nov. 20 auction at the site, said a number of bids were put in for the property.

Orlando said that while Citizens is exercising its right to sell 891 Centre, the present owners, Arborway LLC, will retain ownership of and responsibility for the building until it is sold.

Last month, John Judge, one of the Arborway LLC partners, who is chief development officer for the City of Springfield, left a message with the Gazette saying Dan Hart, head of the Boston-based development and consulting firm Hart Development Associates, is the majority owner of the building. Hart has not responded to repeated Gazette e-mail requests for comment. The listed number for Hart Development Associates is disconnected.

Some of the building’s tenants said they would appreciate it if their landlord was more communicative.

Small told the Gazette previously that UMN might purchase the 891 Centre St. building, but that idea appears to be off the table for the moment. “We just want basic info, like who is going to shovel the snow,” Small said.

“My assumption is that after the first of the year some strange white man is going to walk in the door and tell us what time it is,” he said.

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