BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Land Board voted Tuesday to put 9 state-owned commercial properties worth about $20 million up for auction, likely in early December.
The unanimous vote by the five-member board is part of the board’s new strategic reinvestment plan to use money from commercial real estate and residential cottage site sales to buy timberland and agricultural land.
But the board also voted unanimously to hold off selling a 10th commercial property worth about $1 million after Secretary of State Lawerence Denney said it could be in the state’s long-term financial interest to retain ownership of the building about a block from the Idaho State Capitol Building.
The board instead directed the Idaho Department of Lands to evaluate the financial benefits of keeping the property instead of selling it.
“My thinking is that this is actually part of the Capitol Mall and this is something that at some time in the future we may want this property for state purposes,” Denney said after the meeting. “Its proximity to the Capitol Mall I think makes it a different kind of property than the other commercial properties.”
The commercial properties in the last election became a political liability for some board members when challengers contended state-owned commercial property unfairly competes with private businesses.
Denney, who replaced the retiring Ben Ysursa on the board, was one of those critics and after Tuesday’s meeting acknowledged his motion to hold onto a commercial property might seem out of character. But he noted the building could ultimately end up being auctioned anyway depending on what the evaluation determines.
A financial expert, following questions from Attorney General Lawrence Wasden during the meeting, said that although the market for selling was good now, there was little risk in holding onto the property long enough to consider options because of what the expert called the property’s relatively low value of $1 million.
The one-story building at 590 W. Washington St. is currently being used as a private business office. Denney noted one possibility that could be evaluated is removing the existing building and replacing it with something else.
Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said evaluating the property to see if it met the board’s mandate of long-term financial gain for beneficiaries, which includes public schools, made sense.
“I think it’s worthy of discussion,” he said, noting the state rents considerable space in the downtown area and could use more room. “I see no depreciation of value.”
Otter faced tough criticism during the 2014 election for his role on the Land Board in initially buying the commercial properties.
The Land Board’s real estate broker, the Thornton Oliver Keller company, has been marketing the properties and said removing one from the likely December auction would not affect sale of the other properties.
The live public auction, tentatively set for Dec. 2, will be in Ada County.
Bidders will be required to post a non-refundable deposit of 3 percent of the property’s value or $10,000, whichever is greater.