Unused municipal property mostly empty lots

The sale of the Rollins-Crigler building on Second Avenue North, Woody’s on the Water at the marina and the former Gilmer Inn site on Main Street have all made headlines over the past two years.

All share a surprising owner: the city of Columbus, which also owns the mall adjacent to the municipal complex and several empty lots scattered around the city.

City Attorney Jeff Turnage told The Dispatch that while state law allows municipalities to “set aside and improve” property for “industrial and commercial purposes,” the city never sought to become an owner.

The former Rollins-Crigler building on Second Avenue North, which was recently sold to Zachary’s landlord, Doug Pellum, was deliberately salvaged in 2013, but with no intention of knocking it down, Turnage said.

“The idea at the time was that it would be a hangout space for the Trotter Convention Center,” Turnage said. “But you know how accountants’ offices are. They are extraordinarily small, and therefore the building was not suitable for this purpose.

In the end, the building remained vacant, but the parking lot was used for the overflow of the Trotter. The building itself has been used by the Columbus Police Department for its Halloween fundraiser at least once. Pellum bought it this year for an undisclosed amount.

Probably the most notorious site the city reclaimed was the Gilmer Inn, a well-known eyesore at 321 Main St. The city bought it for $425,000 in 2015.

“It was terribly run down and dilapidated and there was a lot of illicit behavior there,” Turnage said. “(Building Official Kenny Wiegel) used his camera to document the poor conditions you could see from outside the building. Often the doors were off the hinges and you could see the ceiling tiles falling off and the misery.

Then-mayor Robert Smith negotiated the sale of the property with the owners, Turnage said.

The hotel was demolished and the land turned into green space, and it became a popular spot for dog walkers until Financial Concepts bought it in June 2021 for $270,000.

The location of Woody’s on the Water at the Columbus Marina was given to the city after sitting vacant for years, Turnage said. The sale, for $300,000, is still pending.

While the city owns the mall adjacent to the civic complex, it’s only home to two businesses: the China Royal restaurant and Clippers, a hair salon, Turnage said. The remainder of this complex is used for city offices, including the Columbus Crime Lab and the office of Director of Community Planning and Development, George Irby.

China Royal is leasing two commercial spaces adjacent to the city, according to chief financial officer James Brigham. The combined rent is $1,386 per month. Operations manager Jammie Garrett said the hair salon’s rent was $625 a month.

Otherwise, the only properties the city owns that aren’t actively in use or part of the Columbus Redevelopment Authority’s portfolio are approximately 15 lots scattered throughout the city that were taken as part of the city’s run-down real estate program. town.

“We’re going to tear down a house and clean it up, and then we’ll put a lien on the property,” Turnage explained. “If it’s not paid for, we send it to (Tax Assessor/Collector Greg Andrews) and tell him to sell it the same way he would for a tax sale.”

If no one buys, they’re eventually taken by the state, Turnage said.

“It’s overgrown again and we’re sending them a notice to cut their grass,” he said. “Rather than do anything, they send us back an act. … We’ve tried in the past to auction them off, and we have people who bid but they never manage to come up with the money.

Code Enforcement Director Sasha James confirmed Thursday that the city is currently sitting on 15 empty lots.

starkville

Unlike Columbus, the city of Starkville has no commercial properties and very few non-municipal properties.

“We own the library, but nothing that would translate to what Columbus did buying the hotel and a few other things and then, I guess, selling it to a private developer,” Mayor Lynn Spruill said. “We have no such thing.”

In fact, land ownership in the city of Starkville is almost exclusively limited to industrial land and municipal properties like the police department and city hall.

“I can’t think of any property we own that isn’t currently being used for municipal purposes. Virtually nothing. It’s certainly nothing in large quantities,” she said.

Spruill further explained that the city owns small amounts of land here and there – for example, over a decade ago Starkville acquired a small portion of the property off Dr. Douglas L. Conner Drive which they thought they might need for a pass. . He also owns land near North Montgomery Street that could eventually be developed into a small park.

When Nucor, a steel producing company, left Starkville, the land was returned to the city, which is in the process of selling that land. On the rare occasions when the city finds itself with land for sale, the revenue generated by this sale is paid into the general fund.

“There is a property that we are, as I mentioned, selling on Hwy 25. I would like to use the proceeds from this property to open the entrance to Cornerstone (the baseball/softball complex under construction) because it’s one-time money,” Spruill said. “It’s not a sustainable, ongoing source of income, so you really can’t do anything with it that requires an annual expense, like a raise in salary.

About Charles D. Goolsby

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