Small investment group buys Sterling Centers

STERLING – The Sterling Commons Building was sold to a local investment group Thursday morning during an auction at the building, 301 W. Third St.

John Dziedzic, who lives on a farm near Ashton, had the high bid of $87,500. The bidding was to start at $100,000, but auctioneer D. Herb Burns of Mel Foster Co. Auction Services opened the bidding at $250,000. This was the third auction of the building since 2008; the minimum bid had once been $900,000.

Fourteen people showed up for the sale of the 480,000-square-foot building that was once home to Frantz Manufacturing, and most recently had served as a warehouse and shipping facility. The three-floor building includes 30,000 square feet of office space and 18 loading docks.

The only other bidder was Colby Snyder, owner of Midwest Commercial Wholesale in Sterling. Snyder put in the opening bid of $50,000.

Shortly after Burns jokingly shouted “somebody call the sheriff; there’s a 211 in progress,” the bidding stopped at $87,500, and the auctioneer and real estate agent Jim King Jr. of RE/MAX Sauk Valley, called the sellers, nonprofit Helping Hands of America. Former owner Jim Gabler donated the building to Helping Hands late last year, after he was unable to sell it.

Burns came back from the initial phone call with bad news for the high bidder.

“The seller says $100,000 buys the building,” Burns told the investment group.

“This is the the bid you have; this is free money for the owner,” a member of the investment group told Burns.

Burns got back on the phone and returned to announce that the bid of $87,500 had been accepted.

The space in the massive structure will be parceled among the investors for their own projects, Dziedzic said. He declined to talk specifically about the projects, saying they weren’t yet sure which ones they would pursue in the space.

“We all grew up in Chicago, and then moved here,” Dziedzic said. “Everyone has their projects.”

The taxes are estimated to be about $4,200 a year. The sale is scheduled to close in about 30 days.

Both Burns and King were disappointed about the selling price.

“I think they stole this building; it was a great price,” King said. “If this were Chicago, they would have been lined up to turn this into condos.”

Despite what the bidders implied, this won’t be free money for the nonprofit, King said.

“They had to pay to put all this together, and for some maintenance after they acquired it,” King said. “It hasn’t been free for them.”

Although he is excited about acquiring the building, Dziedzic said he wasn’t happy about the bigger implications.

“It’s a sad day for America and Sterling when a beautiful commercial building with 480,000 square feet is sold for less than 17 cents a square foot,” Dziedzic said. “The potential is there, and I assure you it will be utilized to its maximum.”