Williamsburg Shopping Center auctioned for $14.1 million

Williamsburg Shopping Center, a cornerstone of the city's economy, sold at auction Tuesday afternoon for a little more than $14 million.

Located at the corner of Richmond Road and Monticello Avenue, the 19.4 acre property sold to the lender, CGCMT 2004 – C2 Williamsburg Shopping Center, LLC, which submitted the winning bid. Nearly 30 people, including local businessmen and city officials, gathered at the Williamsburg-James City Courthouse to witness the outcome. Only two bids were offered.

John H.C. Barron Jr., an attorney with Duane Morris, LLP who bid on behalf of the lender, said the bid secured the title for the shopping center. He said the lender will hold another auction in the coming months to sell off either the parcels or the entire property, but no decision has been made yet as to whether it will be sold piecemeal.

"We've had inquiries from several prospective purchasers, including people interested in buying part of the property rather than the whole," Barron said.

Robert Singley of 1425 Richmond Road, LLC submitted the only other bid at $8.2 million. Alexandria attorney Joseph J. Aronica read both bids aloud, then asked Singley if he wanted to raise his bid. Singley conceded the auction.

The shopping center has been plagued by vacancies, with some store fronts remaining empty for nearly a decade. The current owner of the shopping center is in default on a decade-old $22 million note, according to an auction notice published in the Aug. 2 Gazette.

There have been periodic calls for razing or redevelopment of the shopping center. City Manager Jack Tuttle said the city is anxious to work with the new owner to "make it the best it can be for the community." He said there is no place he'd rather see exciting new developments than where two of the city's main thoroughfares intersect.

"I believe it is a great location that has a strong future for the city and the whole region," Tuttle said.

Asked what he'd like to see the shopping center or the property become, Tuttle did not get into what the city is hoping for as an addition to its economic base.

If High Street is the model the city favors, the likelihood would be a mix of businesses and residences. Smaller projects have been successful, with a mixed use project close by on Richmond Road, plus Tribe Square across from the College of William & Mary, and Friday's ribbon cutting of Griffin Arms close to the Historic Area.

Aronica said Tuesday's auction required $400,000 deposit by cash or certified check to participate, and a settlement within 15 days. The most recent city assessment values the property at $13.09 million.

Barron said current tenants will be unaffected as the lender intends to continue normal operation of the property in the iterim.

Robertson can be reached at 757-345-2342.