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PORT ARTHUR, TX-Developer Zoya Enterprises Ltd. has acquired a more than 70-year-old office building in the downtown area. The 122,000-square-foot vacant building was sold through a foreclosure auction for north of the $90,000 reserve price.

Tom Abraham, who heads the Sugar Land, TX-based Zoya Enterprises, tells GlobeSt.com he’s still considering options for the six-story structure formerly known as the World Trade Building. He’s talking to the former owner, who had planned to convert the building at 440 Austin Ave. into residential units. Abraham also says another bidder from Colorado did a thorough due diligence on the property and is willing to offer options.

“We won’t let the building sit there,” says Abraham, whose company handles urban renewal projects throughout Texas. “We want to make the right decision on this and make sure it will help the area.”

The area in question is downtown Port Arthur and according to local media reports, the district has needed something pump it up for a long time. When the World Trade Building opened in 1934, Port Arthur’s downtown was booming. However, as time went on and the downtown area decayed, the building lost its luster as an ideal location from which to do business.

Vacant since the late 1980s, the building was sold in the mid-2000s to Mount Tamaplais Investments Corp. of Carson City, NE. The developer planned to convert the structure into a hurricane-resistant, 160-unit apartment building that would provide housing for oil rig workers. The belief was that the steel-and-concrete building could be further reinforced with a hurricane-resistant rooftop and windows. It was also believed this particular renovation would jump-start the area’s revitalization.

Due to the economy, however, “the developer’s funding was cut off, and he just wasn’t able to continue the project so it went into foreclosure,” says Tim Clay with Houston-based Clay & Co. Commercial Real Estate Services. Clay worked with Clay & Co.’s Amy Silvey to represent the Houston-based lender during the auction process.

Clay tells GlobeSt.com that the property attracted a lot of interest. “When it came right down to it, not a lot of people are well-suited to lead the development in this type of thing,” he says. Though many showed up at the auction, only two were serious bidders; and those two bidders could joint venture on redeveloping the project, Clay notes.

Clay believes the structure will likely end up as a multifamily project, pointing out that the oil companies have a need for housing refinery and oil-rig workers. “It’s a beautiful building, from an architectural standpoint,” he adds. “It’s very attractively designed, and hopefully someday it will be a nice residential housing building.”

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