The sanctuary of the partially built church offers a great deal of open space for whomever buys the property at the auction on Wednesday, Feb. 1.  
photo courtesy of Northwest Auctions/SL

  The sanctuary of the partially built church offers a great deal of open space for whomever buys the property at the auction on Wednesday, Feb. 1.  

photo courtesy of Northwest Auctions/SL


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Last year, Northwest Auctions partner Paul Thomas auctioned off Rick’s Nightclub in the Lake City neighborhood. This year, he hopes to balance the scale by auctioning off a partially built church on Wednesday, Feb. 1. 

The church, located in the Rainier Beach neighborhood at 5119 S. Cloverdale St., has been vacant for around three years. Construction abruptly halted when the pastor who owned the building died, leaving his family to inherit the estate. They are selling it through the auction house. (Out of grief, the family requested they remain anonymous.)

“The incomplete nature of this building made it difficult for a real estate agent to resell it,” Thomas explained. 

There were not any similarly unfinished properties with which to compare it to, so when it came time to sell the church, a real-estate agent listed a price that ended up being too high for buyers. Eventually, the listing expired. Since then the building has been empty, unfinished and unused. 

An auction offers speed and exposure that ensures the church will, in fact, sell.

“People hear the word ‘auction,’ and it catches their attention,” Thomas said. “They immediately think they might get a bargain.” 

Over the last month, a wide variety of potential buyers have shown interest in the property. This includes several churches, a teen center, a funeral home, a photography studio, a school, two small companies looking for office space, a few residential developers and homeless shelters.

“We will be particularly pleased if the property is used in a way that benefits the community,” Thomas said, “such as a church, teen center or homeless shelter. Anything but a strip club.”

 

A different process

The process of auctioning off this church has been dramatically different from selling Rick’s Nightclub. 

While the church has many interested parties, Rick’s had two: restaurant owners and other strip-club owners. 

“The value of Rick’s was entirely in the permit,” said Cynthia Thomas, partner at Northwest Auctions. “It allowed for other strip clubs to be built.” 

Unsurprisingly the property was sold to another business owner in the sex industry for $2.35 million.  

The projected range of winning bids for the church is significantly smaller than that of Rick’s. It has a minimum bid of $330,000, which is well below the assessed value of $849,800. 

While this might be a less lucrative endeavor, Northwest Auctions partners hope to “redeem good karma” by filling this long-vacant property and helping improve the Rainier Beach community.

“Whenever you have a property not being utilized, it attracts taggers and people who want to break in,” Thomas said.

This rings true for the church. Northwest Auctions partners had to clean up trash and graffiti on and around it before they could take pictures and start marketing.

Once this got under way, interested parties flocked to the Northwest Auctions website at a rate six to eight times higher than normal, according to Northwest Auctions. It was clear that the unconventional nature of this property attracted unusually high interest in the auction. 

Neighbors have expressed excitement over the church auction. While they have no ability to restrict who buys the property, many people hope it goes to a homeless shelter. 

“It’s heartwarming and gratifying to hear,” Thomas said.

“Since empty buildings can bring problems to a neighborhood, it’s important to get them activated and filled with something,” said Susan Davis, executive director of the Rainier Chamber of Commerce.

 

Auction day

The live auction takes place at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 1, at the Rainier Beach Community Center, 8825 Rainier Ave. S.

While most auctions are fast and sometimes difficult to follow, Thomas said that his auctions are slower and more conversational. This ensures that bidders can clearly hear what is going on. 

Furthermore, while auction day is used to set the price, the winning bidder is not required to pay up immediately. He or she has the next 30 days to create a payment plan.

Fore more information about the upcoming auction, visit www.NWAuctions.com.