By Jerome Tharaud
The property at 2100 U.S. Highway 2 East known as the old Kmart building may soon be occupied after being vacant for more than a decade.
On Tuesday night the Havre City Council unanimously approved a transfer of its interest in the property to Denver Partners, a Pennsylvania-based developer that intends to sell the property within 60 days for commercial development.
The city gained an interest in the property when it agreed to help finance construction of a Kmart store there in 1975.
Denver Partners spokesman Jack Russo said in a telephone interview Tuesday morning that an agreement of sale has already been reached, but would not disclose who the buyer is. Vaughn Trucking owner Chuck Vaughn said today his company is trying to buy the property, but said a deal would not be reached anytime soon.
"I hate to say anything until it's a done deal, and it's a long ways from that," said Vaughn, who said he was unsure if the financing would come through. "We're just getting started," he said, adding that there were other interested bidders.
Lotton Construction owner Brad Lotton also had expressed interest in acquiring the property, but said the price was too high.
"It's just a matter of getting it for a decent price," Lotton said today. "I threw up my hands."
Mayor Bob Rice said Tuesday night that several people have been interested in the property, including the local owner of Big R.
Owner Wayne Wike said today he once expressed an interest in the property but is no longer interested.
Regardless of who ends up with the property, a new business on the site will be a welcome change, Lotton said.
"Any way we can get anybody to move to Havre is a great thing for Havre," he said.
The city will have little control over what the building is used for. The property is already zoned for commercial use and has city amenities. "They don't need our permission at all," Rice said.
"They couldn't put a strip club in there or anything," he quipped.
But whoever buys the building will have to deal with substantial damage to the property, Rice said.
"They're going to have to do major, major renovations," he said. "I've been inside and it's just a mess. The kids have really trashed it out."
The building was also flooded about a year ago, he said.
Any buyer will need to fix the plumbing and sprinkler system, patch leaks in the air conditioning system, and do some roof work, but the structure is sound, Lotton said.
"It's a great building, great location," he added.
The property has been for sale for several years, Rice said, but Denver Properties was in no hurry to sell because until recently Kmart was paying rent.
Kmart's lease ran out in November of 2001, Havre Kmart manager Steve Harr said.
The space was vacated in November 1992 when Kmart moved to its current location west of town, taking about 40 employees with it.