City readies to sell Florida apartment complex

‘Ford had assets they sold off because they realized they had to get back to their core mission. They didn’t want to be distracted. And that’s what I’m saying, this would be a distraction.’
— Mayor John O’Reilly Jr.

By J. PATRICK PEPPER
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — City officials said last week they are preparing to put up for sale the Dearborn Towers senior-living facility in Clearwater, Fla.

In 2007, voters here approved a ballot measure that gave city officials the option of selling the eight-story, 88-unit apartment complex. An informal appraisal that year determined the beachfront property was worth upwards of $8 million.

Since then, Dearborn has obtained three independent appraisals reflective of the still-deflating nationwide real estate bubble, with each subsequent appraisal worth less than the previous one. The most recent valued the towers at $2.8 million, based on the current revenue structure, but estimated that it could fetch more than twice that if rental rates were raised to market rate — which officials say is likely what would happen in the event of a sale.

Selling the property in the saturated Clearwater market would take six to 18 months, according to the appraisal.

The building – a blue concrete block and stucco structure – is outdated aesthetically, the appraisals say, but it does have several unique aspects that could help it sell even faster. Among them are a relatively high square-footage-per-unit ratio and a grandfather clause allowing it to have more units per acre than Clearwater ordinances currently specify.

Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said Friday that Dearborn is in the process of hiring a broker, and that he hopes to have the property on the market “soon.” Already, he said, an adjacent property owner has contacted the city. That owner recently razed their building and could be interested in combining the two lots .

The mayor said he would be looking for about $7 million for the complex, adding that the city can wait if the market is unreceptive.

“This isn’t a fire sale, so we aren’t in any rush to just jump at the first available offer,” O’Reilly said. When the city purchased the facility in 1963, it was a symbol of a burgeoning tax base, led by a booming Ford Motor Co.

Former Mayor Orville Hubbard bought the tax-foreclosed property from the Federal Housing Authority for a little more than $1 million, with the idea of turning it into a sanctuary for senior snowbirds who resided in Dearborn. And for years it was just that.

But now nearly a half-century later, with the city facing some of the most dire economic challenges in its history, Dearborn Towers once again is being viewed through the Blue Oval prism as the complex is readied for sale.

“You look at Ford,” O’Reilly said. “They had assets they sold off because they realized they had to get back to their core mission. They didn’t want to be distracted. And that’s what I’m saying, this would be a distraction.

“I’m not going to close libraries and lay off police and fire to run an apartment complex in Florida.”

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