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Auction of four city of Albany properties brings in $566,000, pending commission approval

Former L’Jua’s restaurant attracts, $205,000, but Tift Park parcel is removed from online auction of city-owned property

The former L’Jua’s restaurant at 704 Radium Springs Road received a top bid of $205,000 in an online auction conducted by the city of Albany Wednesday. The property is one of four auctioned by the city that brought in a total of $566,000. (Herald file photo)

The former L’Jua’s restaurant at 704 Radium Springs Road received a top bid of $205,000 in an online auction conducted by the city of Albany Wednesday. The property is one of four auctioned by the city that brought in a total of $566,000. (Herald file photo)

ALBANY — Pending the acceptance of the bids by the Albany City Commission Tuesday, the city of Albany’s finances are about to get fatter by a half-million dollars.

The city conducted an online auction of four properties it owns on Wednesday, and City Attorney Nathan Davis confirmed Friday that the city’s take after bids were finalized came to $566,000. The city received a $91,000 top bid for 30-plus acres of land off Lockett Station Road, $90,000 for 14-plus acres of land off Westover Road, $205,000 for the former L’Jua’s restaurant at 704 Radium Springs Road and $180,000 for an old Albany Police Department precinct building at 2201 and 2223 Dawson Road.

“I’d say we did pretty good,” City Manager James Taylor beamed after the final bid numbers came in. “This is the first time we’ve used this bid process, and it turned out to be fantastic. We got bids from all over the country.”

A total of 416 bids were placed on the four pieces of property by 39 different bidders. Interestingly, a total of 7,717 Web views were recorded during the bid process.

“It’s just like the online auctions people get involved in on their home computers,” Davis said. “There was a flurry of activity at the end of the bid that pushed the close of bidding — which was supposed to be 2 o’clock — up about 37 minutes. I wish I could say I came up with the idea (to do an online auction), but I can’t do that. Whoever made the decision, I think it was a great one.”

The $205,000 bid for the former L’Jua’s restaurant was even more significant because the city had gotten no bids on that property in a previous attempt to sell it. LaJuana Woods reportedly borrowed slightly more than $90,000 in Housing and Urban Development-funded grants to help with construction of the project, but she eventually defaulted on the loan. The city paid Capitol City Bank slightly less than $100,000 to move into the first-lien position in an effort to recoup the HUD loan money.

With interest on a loan used to finance the payoff of the HUD grant, the total amount of the city’s financial interest came in around the $205,000 figure.

“That’s really good news because there were no bids on that property before,” Davis said of the L’Jua’s transaction. “Even if we were just around the break-even mark, the property will move back onto the tax rolls as soon as the sale is complete. And hopefully someone will come in and use that property for some type of retail venture. Even so, if anyone fixes it up, they’re going to buy supplies — paint, paper products, building materials — right here in our community.

“That’s a very attractive piece of property, so someone could really do something nice with it.”

One piece of property that had originally been intended for auction along with the four parcels was a section of Tift Park at the historic property’s northeast corner. That property was taken off the auction list days before Wednesday’s bid, partially because of a community uproar surrounding rumored plans to sell part of the park.

Taylor said Wednesday there were no plans to sell the park, only the parcel where the no-longer-used Albany Police Department horse stables were located along Seventh Avenue. But a well-known developer in the area said Friday there was more to that decision.

“They tried to auction (that parcel) but found out, as many already knew, they can’t sell it. If the city no longer uses the park, the park will revert back to the family that gave it to the city,” the developer, who asked that his name not be used, said in an email.