The Atascadero Printery building will stay in local hands after all.
The Atascadero Printery Foundation has won the historic building in an online tax auction with a final bid of $300,100, foundation president Karen McNamara confirmed Monday morning, putting an end to the foundation’s long struggle to keep the building under local control and away from developers who might not understand its importance to the community.
“We’re very relieved,” McNamara said. “We want to thank everybody who helped us and has been a part of this.”
The auction ended at 9:26 a.m. Monday, and the group was bidding against another entity right up until the final five minutes, McNamara said.
“Those five minutes of waiting were the longest ever,” she said. “We felt sick.”
Prior to the auction, the group raised about $60,000 to buy the property, which was built by Atascadero founder E.G. Lewis in 1915; an anonymous guarantor will loan the foundation the remaining $240,100 to cover the final bid, McNamara said.
It will likely still cost the group upwards of millions of dollars in the future as it seeks to renovate the neglected building, which was among disgraced developer Kelly Gearhart’s assets.
That includes a $17.5 million federal lien attached to the property by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, to raise money for some of the victims of Gearhart’s Ponzi real estate scheme. (Gearhart, a former Citizen of the Year, is serving a 14-year prison sentence for scamming investors out of millions of dollars with the scheme.)
The building will also need about $9 million in repairs and renovations, because it was damaged in the 2003 San Simeon Earthquake.
McNamara said the group will start reaching out to the community for ideas on how they want to use the property, and begin fundraising the millions it will take to make it a “valuable community asset.”
“We want it to be filled every day — a hub for the Atascadero community,” she said.
Mayor Tom O’Malley applauded the foundation’s success Monday, saying it was a “great example” of the community coming together.
“The city is happy to see this move forward and commends the Printery Foundation in achieving its goal to obtain the building,” he said. “The city knows how much effort this takes as we had experienced it with the City Hall restoration after the San Simeon Earthquake. We wish the foundation success as they work to take the next foot forward towards renovation.”