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Sterling Centers donated to charitable organization

But charitable group will put building back on market

STERLING – After working to redevelop and sell the former Frantz Manufacturing building for nearly 6 years, owner Jim Gabler has donated the structure, now known as Sterling Centers, to a Boston-based charitable organization.

Gabler, CEO of Verifacts, gifted the building to Helping Hands of America, a facilitator of larger-scale donations such as real estate and vehicles. The property deal closed on Dec. 31. The building will be put back on the market for Helping Hands.

Gabler said he was disappointed that his family’s donation will not stay in local hands.

“It was offered to a number of local charities and other local entities,” Gabler said. “We wanted our community to benefit from the donation, but no one locally had any interest.”

Two churches were among the local nonprofits, but Gabler wouldn’t say which ones.

Gabler had high hopes for the property after Gabler Family Corp. bought it in July 2008.

The 490,000-square-foot building in the 300 block of West Third Street had been vacant for 10 years.

Gabler wanted the space to become a technology center that ultimately would create up to 500 jobs. The nation, however, was in the throes of a recession and Gabler unsuccessfully put the building up for auction in June 2010.

Several tenants, including Walmart Distribution Center and Wahl Clipper, had used the building for storage space during the time Gabler had owned it.

Last spring, plans were being made to turn the building into a business development center. Included was commercial space for small retailers, and office space that could be built out to accommodate anything from mom-and-pop shops to light manufacturing ventures. The plans to spur economic development never gained traction.

The minimum bid for the 3-story structure at auction was $900,000. The building will be relisted at a much lower price.

“The property will be back on the market at a reduced rate – between $250,000 and $300,000,” said Jim King Jr., the RE/MAX Sauk Valley listing agent who specializes in commercial property. “The listing is in transit and hasn’t been signed yet, but it should be very soon.”

There has been some commercial interest in the property, but none locally yet, King said.

Sterling Mayor Skip Lee said he was unaware that the building had changed hands. He said he applauded Gabler’s efforts to reuse the building, calling him an innovator and a risk taker.

“He spent a lot of time, effort and money to develop it in a variety of ways,” Lee said. “I think he was a victim of the economic times. If this were 2003 instead of 2014, he would have stood a better chance.”

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