After a nail biting online tax auction on May 15, the Atascadero Printery Foundation finally took ownership of the historic building.
Foundation President Karen McNamara said she increased the foundation’s bid in the last minutes of the auction to the final bid of $300,100, earning the group the winning bid over an unknown competing group. The starting bid was $283,200.
“We were just so nervous that someone else was bidding for the printery,” McNamara said. “It was the longest five minutes.”
Prior to the auction the foundation had raised $60,000 through fundraisers and donations. McNamara said an anonymous donor chipped in the remaining $240,100 for the bid.
Now that the foundation owns the building, it’s tasked with raising additional funds to renovate it, which will cost an estimated $9 million.
“We need to make payments and we need to continue on working towards the security of the building,” she said.
The building had been left to deteriorate after its previous owner, Kelly Gearhart, neglected to pay eight years of taxes on the property. Gearhart was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2015 for his part in a real estate scam.
As part of compensation to Gearhart’s victims, the U.S. Attorney’s Office put a $17.5 million federal lien on the historic building—a debt that the foundation must now also pay.
The nonprofit organization formed in November of 2015 with the notion of restoring the building to its original purpose, to serve the community.
With ideas of creating a space for youth art and STEM programs, senior citizens clubs, and community meetings, McNamara said the foundation is already getting offers from the community members who are willing to donate their full and partial services toward the building.
“Owning the building gives you the base,” she said. “Before it was too much of a dream and now it’s a reality.”
The foundation hopes to plan a charity race in Atascadero in March of next year as part of its effort to raise money for the printery.