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ATLANTA-City Hall East, that 77-year-old, 10-story former Sears warehouse and distribution center on Ponce de Leon Avenue could have a new owner and a new face by this time next year if the city’s plans to sell the structure and finance its redevelopment pans out.

The project would be one of the largest of its kind Downtown in decades, area brokers tell GlobeSt.com.

Mayor Shirley Franklin is formally asking developers to bid on the two million-sf, 75% vacant property that still houses parts of the Atlanta Police Department, the city’s 911 call center, the Atlanta Fire Department and the city Department of Public Works.

Deadline for the proposals is March 17 and the winning developer will be selected by June. Renovations and new construction are planned to start by fall 2004. The city, however, will control the project’s development.

The city isn’t expected to recoup the total $30 million it has put into the property to date, area brokers intimate with the Ponce de Leon submarket and city hall programs tell GlobeSt.com. The city paid $12 million, or $6 per sf, for the vacant building in 1991 and has invested another $18 million in periodic renovations.

Area brokers who have sold comparable properties in the past tell GlobeSt.com they estimate City Hall East will sell for about $3 million, or $1.50 per sf. Brokers estimate the total redevelopment cost could reach $75 million.

Two developers who have expressed interest in buying the property are Emory Morsberger of Lilburn, GA and Steve Macauley, the Buckhead developer who heads the Phoenix Team, a consortium of local investors and developers ready to put their money and expertise into City Hall East.

Morsberger told the city at an August public meeting he would develop 250,0000 sf of retail on the first two floors of the building and create 1,100 loft residences on the remaining eight floors.

Macauley’s plans, unveiled in October, envision the creation of a small town on the 15-acre site. The Phoenix Team would develop 500,000 sf of retail; an undetermined amount of professional office space; and up to 2,000 lofts, along with a community theater and a YMCA with a pool.

According to the city’s offer to sell the property, the new owner would have to provide office space either at the existing building or elsewhere in the city for the 1,000 city employees currently working at City Hall East; help the surrounding neighborhood develop affordable housing; and develop City Hall East so that it could serve as a station on a future intown rail system.

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