Mary Louise Flavel’s vacant and decaying property on the north side of Ninth and Commercial in downtown Astoria is going on the auction block at a discount.
The historic 8,125-square-foot M&N Building has been listed at $180,000, according to Realty Marketing/Northwest, a Portland broker tapped by Flavel’s conservator, down from the last asking price of $324,400.
The auction is the latest step to help bring closure to the long-running conflict between the city and Flavel over the famous family’s derelict property.
In May, Greg Newenhof, the co-owner of City Lumber, paid $221,901 in cash for the dilapidated Colonial Revival-style home on 15th Street built in 1901 for Capt. George Conrad Flavel, Mary Louise Flavel’s grandfather.
The city and Flavel’s conservator — Caroline Evans, of Portland — had agreed last December that the elderly Flavel would sell the home and the M&N Building and would eventually sell or bring her property on the south side of Commercial Street up to code.
The vacant Flavel properties have been an embarrassment to a city that proudly shows off the Flavel House Museum, a Queen Anne-style mansion that was home to Capt. George Flavel, the celebrated Columbia River bar pilot and family patriarch.
The M&N Building, built in 1924 and named for Mary C. Flavel — the captain’s wife — and daughter, Nellie, has had tenants such as Pacific Power and Sears.
A price reduction to about $22 a square foot comes as prime commercial property in a resurgent downtown can go for more than $75 a square foot. The low price reflects the difficulty of redeveloping the deteriorating property, which is made up of five storefronts and a full basement in a historic district.
A new owner would have to spend a considerable amount of money to renovate the building. Demolishing the property and starting over would likely require approval from the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission.
“The question is can you renovate it and not spend so much where you’re having to charge above what the current market rate is for rent?” said Kevin Cronin, the city’s community development director. “And so that’s the trick.”
Peter Tadei, a real estate broker active in the downtown commercial property market, called $22 a square foot a “bottom basement price.”
The challenge for prospective buyers, he said, is similar to the old Waldorf Hotel on Duane Street next to City Hall, which has been spared from demolition but sits vacant because of the high cost of renovating the historic building.
“You can’t give the building away because of what it costs to renovate it and to make it pencil out,” Tadei said of the old hotel. “That’s why nobody has jumped on that. Same thing.
“And yet they don’t want you tear it down. So what do you do?”
The M&N Building is listed for auction at a published reserve price of $180,000, which, according to Realty Marketing/Northwest, means that if the bidding reaches or exceeds that price the Flavel conservator is committed to sell to the highest bidder. If the bidding falls short of that price, the conservator can accept, counter or reject the highest bid.
Sealed bids are due to the broker by Nov. 18.