County shells out money for land

Four downtown lots cost almost $3 million and will help provide room for Boone government.
Wednesday, February 9, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:10 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

Boone County is paying high dollar for parts of downtown as the value of property in The District increases.

“There have been more real estate sales in The District in the past two years than there have been in the past 10 years,” Boone County Assessor Tom Schauwecker said.

The county has bought or contracted to buy four properties in the past six months: the Guaranty Land Title Insurance building; the former Lifestyles Furniture building; a nearby office building occupied by the law firm Ford, Parshall and Baker LLC; and the former Jerry’s School of Hairstyling building. In each case, it paid at least twice as much as the property’s 2004 appraised values.

This is not unusual given the imperfect nature of Columbia’s real estate market, which is always in flux and recently has become “white hot,” Schauwecker said. The recent spike is partly due to historically low mortgage rates.

“The county did pay a premium for the buildings, but I believe they are more valuable to the county than anyone else,” Schauwecker said.

Appraised values often differ from the actual prices paid because appraisals are done without a lot of information about how much properties are selling for, Schauwecker said. Buyers, he noted, are not required to disclose how much they pay for real estate.

The county paid a combined $2.05 million to Count Boonty LLC, for the Lifestyles Furniture building and the nearby law offices. Although the properties had an official 2004 appraised value of only $607,590, an appraisal done by Moore and Shryock LLC on behalf of the county showed the properties to be worth a combined $2 million.

The county paid $670,000 for the Guaranty building, which was officially appraised at $324,300. The former hair salon sold for $262,500 after being appraised at $96,370.

Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller noted that in the case of the Lifestyles and law-firm building, the county paid less than the owners’ appraisers said the buildings were worth. She also said the county was willing to pay good money for the properties because of their locations.

The former Lifestyles building is at 101 N. Seventh St., and the law firm offices are at 609 E. Walnut St. The Guaranty building is only a block away at 607 E. Ash St. All are within two blocks of the Boone County Courthouse and the county government center.

The county also owns the Johnson Building at 601 E. Walnut St. and the former hair salon at 217 N. Ninth St.

Money for the purchases came from the county’s unreserved fund balance.

County commissioners began preparing for growth about eight years ago, when the government center was built. They sent letters to adjoining property owners asking for notice if they intended to sell.

County officials over the summer asked the owners of the Lifestyles Furniture building to sell, but they were unwilling until the December sale to the county of the Guaranty building. The county in January contracted to buy the Lifestyles Furniture structure.

Carrie Gartner, executive director of the Downtown Columbia Associations, said the county’s purchase of the buildings is a good thing even though it will cause the Special Business District to lose property tax revenue.

“We love having county functions in The District, and it certainly makes sense that the county needs more space, because they are crammed in the courthouse,” Gartner said.

But Leigh Lockhart, co-chairwoman of Columbia Locally Owned Retailers and Services, expressed concern, saying downtown retailers keep money in the community.

“We just get nervous when one entity buys up downtown property,” she said. “It changes the face of Columbia.”

Lifestyles Furniture has already moved to a new location at First Street and Broadway, while Ford, Parshall and Baker has no future site plans. Guaranty Land Title will eventually move to a new location on Broadway.

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