Downtown structure to go up for auction

17-story Nicholas Building scheduled to be sold Feb. 14

2/5/2013
BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
The exterior of the Nicholas Building (the former Fifth Third Center, now closed).
The exterior of the Nicholas Building (the former Fifth Third Center, now closed).

It has been mothballed for more than three years now, but better days could be ahead for downtown Toledo’s Nicholas Building.

The 17-story building at 608 Madison Ave. is scheduled to be sold at a Lucas County Sheriff’s sale auction at 10 a.m. Feb. 14 in the county courthouse.

A minimum bid of $499,762 — the amount of back taxes owed on the property — is required to participate in the auction but officials connected with the foreclosure case are hoping that the property sells for more than that and, at the very least, that the winning bidder is someone who wants to restore and reopen the former downtown headquarters of Fifth Third Bank.

Spitzer Building Co. holds the note on the landmark Nicholas Building and the neighboring 10-story Spitzer Building at 520 Madison. In December, Spitzer Building Co. won a foreclosure action and reclaimed both properties from building owner Koray Ergur and his company, the Ergur Group, a California private equity firm.

Both buildings were ordered to be sold at a sheriff's sale, with the Nicholas Building first to go on the auction block next week. The Spitzer building will be auctioned in mid-May because it has extra costs associated with a court-appointed receiver that must be resolved.

Attorney Scott Ciolek, who represents Spitzer Building Co., said the sooner the Nicholas Building sells, the better. “The only issues holding the Nicholas Building back are tax issues and winterizing,” he said.

Previous flooding issues in the sub-basement were not as bad as thought, and generally, the building is in very good shape, Mr. Ciolek said. But after three years of being closed, the sooner a new owner can get it reopened, the quicker the threat of winter or spring rain damage can be removed.

Patrice Spitzer, the receiver in the case and head of Spitzer Building Co., said she has been eager to obtain new ownership for the Nicholas Building.

“It’s been dark for so long and it’s just a terrific building. I really look forward to somebody owning it who can take care of it, get it cleaned up, and get it opened. It’s in surprisingly terrific shape,” she said.

The Spitzer family isn't interested in acquiring the Nicholas building, she said. “The Nicholas building has not been in our family for over 100 years and the family won’t be bidding on it,” she said.

But ironically, the day of the Nicholas building auction, the Spitzer family — members of whom live in Florida, Colorado, Massachusetts, and elsewhere — will be having a family reunion in Florida. Mrs. Spitzer said the question of bidding on the Spitzer Building when it goes to auction in May is likely to be raised.

“My goal [as receiver] has been to keep the Spitzer Building open, to keep the tenants in place, and to keep my employees working. We want to see these buildings brought back to life,” Mrs. Spitzer said.

But “right now, I'm the only Spitzer in Toledo. I’m sure [the auction] will come up,” she said. “But it was the Spitzers in Toledo who wanted to keep the building going, specifically, my husband,” Mrs. Spitzer's said. Her husband, attorney Lyman F. Spitzer, died in January, 2011.

“Whether the rest of the family has any interest, we will see,” she said.

Pete Shawaker, a commercial Realtor with the Reichle Klein Group in Toledo, has been marketing both buildings and said there has been interest in the Nicholas Building for some time now by an unidentified party who has done a significant amount of due diligence on the building.

Mr. Shawaker said he expects the unidentified party to be at the Feb. 14 auction, but there could be additional bidders as well.

“The interest in that building will be greater today than it has been in the last couple of years as we leave the great recession behind,” Mr. Shawaker said. “In the past, it was hard to get financing during the recession.”

Private investors now are more confident of getting financing for good projects, he said. “I personally believe that over the next couple of years we will see more residential conversion of buildings downtown,” Mr. Shawaker said.

The Nicholas Building could be a prime candidate, he added. “Residential is the right re-use for that building, but at the same time I wouldn’t be surprised if an office user shows up too at the auction,” he said.

The Nicholas Building lacks covered, attached parking, but excavating the building’s basement to create parking isn't impossible. It has been done before at the LaSalle Building and the Bartley lofts building, Mr. Shawaker said.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.