The second of two Tacoma library branches shuttered in 2011 due to budget cuts has finally been sold – well below its $400,000 appraisal.
But a seven-member committee that recommended selling the Swan Creek branch on Portland Avenue for $91,000 viewed the buyer’s plans to turn it into a day care center as a way to create value beyond its low price tag.
“Overall, the committee felt a day care center was needed in the neighborhood and will provide a direct benefit for the community,” said Conor McCarthy, an assistant city public works division manager overseeing the property sale.
Tacoma’s City Council this week approved the sale to 4RentCheck.com LLC owned by local businessman Darren Gill.
Gill, who said his family has lived in the nearby Salishan community for 63 years, told the council he plans to invest $300,000 in the aging building “to make it a turn-key child care center.”
“I understand it needs a substantial amount of work,” Gill said, adding, “There’s a community need.”
As part of the deal, the city placed a restrictive covenant on the property that requires Gill to first obtain city approval – or face up to $40,000 in penalties per year – should he seek to operate any business other than a day care on the site within the first five years of owning the property.
Councilman Marty Campbell, who represents Tacoma’s East Side, said he was inspired by Gill’s commitment “to coming back to invest into the neighborhood.”
Due to budget cuts, the Tacoma Library Board of Trustees reluctantly closed the Martin Luther King and Swan Creek branches in 2011. Both properties, which were built from a $15.8 million bond approved by voters in 1984, later were put up for sale.
Tacoma sold the MLK branch at 19th and Cedar streets during a public bidding process last year that garnered a $700,000 bid – $40,000 above its appraised value. That building is now being converted into a clinic specializing in fitting prosthetic limbs and a nonprofit dedicated to preventing limb loss in diabetics.
But the city had trouble selling Swan Creek, a low-slung, concrete block building on a tight lot off busy Portland Avenue. Twice last year, the city opened a public bidding process for the building, but drew no offers.
City officials said the sale troubles partly stemmed from a stagnant real estate market and an aging structure with more than $455,000 in deferred maintenance costs. Meantime, the library’s costs for keeping the facility amounted to about $20,000 per year to cover maintenance and security, McCarthy said.
After no suitors came forward during public bidding last year, the city hired a real estate broker to market the building. By December, the broker had generated four offers, ranging from Gill’s $91,000 one to a $140,000 offer from a man who wanted to store antique cars in the building. The other two offers were a $115,000 proposal from a church that planned to expand its ministries and a $130,000 bid from a restaurant owner who wanted to buy the building as a commercial investment property.
A seven-member committee made up of city library director Susan Odencrantz, city staff and community members ultimately scored Gill’s offer the highest, based on how all of the proposed uses for the property aligned with neighborhood and city goals.
Largely guiding the decision, McCarthy said, was the Tacoma Library Board of Trustees’ stated intention that the branch be sold “for uses that would improve and enhance the community in which it is located.”
From the sale proceeds, the city will pay a 2.5 percent commission to its property broker and return about $4,600 to a community development block grant fund. The rest of the money will go into the city’s general fund, McCarthy said.Lewis Kamb: 253-597-8542 lewis.kamb@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/politics @lewiskamb