Avia Collinder, Business Reporter
The six-storEy structure at the corner of Trinidad Terrace and St Lucia Avenue has sat idle and incomplete for decades after the planning authorities shut it down for breaching zoning rules.
The building, which was developed in the 1980s, eventually fell into the hands of the Government and its debt-collection partner, and has been the subject of litigation over the past decade resulting from the takeover.
Now, however, it has finally been placed on the market for sale.
Margaret Curtis of Jamaica Redevelopment Foundation Inc (JRFI), which has hired Ken Tomlinson as receiver to dispose of the building, says the debt-collection company is seeking US$1.2 million (J$123.5 million) for the asset.
Advertisements placed by Tomlinson's firm, Business Recovery Services Limited, suggest that the receiver is also open to offers.
Tomlinson said the legal issues surrounding the structure appeared to have ended with the passing of Delbert Perrier of Auburn Court Limited, the company through which the property was developed back in the latter half of the 1980s.
However, Perrier's former attorney Jennifer Messado told Sunday Business that the lenders had won the court fight.
"When you have a mortgage, the mortgage company always wins. You can only buy time," Messado said. "See, it is now being sold," she said of the property.
Within the last decade, Perrier had filed lawsuits against two banks - National Commercial Bank Jamaica (NCB) and the former Union Bank of Jamaica, which later became RBTT Bank and is now RBC Royal Bank after two changes of ownership - as well as the Government's bail-out firm Financial Sector Adjustment Company (FINSAC) for J$156 million, which he claimed as lost earnings.
Perrier and his company Auburn Court contended, according to reports in 2002, that
although they had repaid a J$4.7-million loan from NCB, the bank was claiming that he owed J$181.8 million when the debt was assigned to FINSAC and its subsidiary Refin Trust. NCB was among the entities bailed out by the Government.
Perrier's daughter, Celia, said her father passed away three years ago in September 2010.
"He was a man with a big heart. It was a pity you did not get to know him," she said.
Asked if his estate planned to continue the legal battle over the property, she said: "I will neither confirm nor deny that."
The building has remained something of an eyesore in New Kingston over the years.
The Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) placed the stop order on the structure during its construction, and ordered that three of the floors be demolished.
Messado said the corporation stopped the construction because Auburn Court did not have sufficient parking in its plans to accommodate a six-storey structure.
The demolition order was never carried out.
The mortgaged building later fell into the hands of its bankers who claimed a default on loan payments, and was among assets taken over during the financial-sector crisis when the Government bailed out banks and insurance companies, starting in the mid-1990s.
Tomlinson told Sunday Business that whoever buys the property would have to sort out the demolition issues with the planning authorities.
However, it's unclear whether the zoning issues raised two decades ago are still germane today, given the evolution of New Kingston and the parking services that are now features of the business district.
KSAC Town Clerk Errol Greene gave no definitive answer to the query. He told Sunday Business that the initial enforcement actions were way before his time, and that the buyer would have to apply to the corporation for permission to complete the building.
The structure is 44,200 square feet and comprises a basement, ground floor and five other floors. The total land size is 5,890 square feet.
JRFI notes on its website that a minimum 15 per cent deposit is required on all purchases of property; save for those approved for 'seller financing', which requires 30 per cent deposit.
Tomlinson said the building is being sold as a regular commercial property.