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Downtown iconic hotel going on auction block

JACKSON — A May 22 online auction will determine the future of a downtown Jackson landmark.

Auctioneer Benny Taylor tells the Mississippi Business Journal (http://bit.ly/113wahW) that several prospective bidders toured the eight-story Edison Walthall Hotel this past week.

The hotel has been closed since early 2010 after burst water pipes extensively damaged the lower floors.

Tax records put the appraised value at $3.79 million, though its assessed value for tax purposes is $569,261.

St. Louis-based Roberts Hotel Group tried unsuccessfully to have the 205-room hotel included in a bankruptcy filing. When that failed, the property landed with Lee Katz, an Atlanta specialist in finding buyers for distressed properties. Katz has been the court-designated receiver of the hotel since last fall.

His job is to recover as much as possible of the $7.5 million owed bondholders.

“We negotiated a couple of contracts, but we decided after we got court approval to hold an auction that this would be the best way to get this to a concluding point,” Katz said.

Taylor, of Taylor Real Estate Auctions, said the auction will require a minimum bid but he could not disclose the amount.

The auction includes the 100,000-square-foot hotel and its four-level, 200-space parking garage, and all the furnishings, Taylor said.

The building opened in 1927 as a three-story bakery. Owners converted the property to a hotel in 1928 by adding five floors. The hotel has undergone a series of makeovers through the decades, as hotel styles changed, including an incarnation in the 1960s as a motor court with a swimming pool atop the garage.

The Roberts Group, owners of Jackson TV station CW34 and radio station 97.7FM WRBJ, bought the hotel in 2008 with plans to invest $10 million in upgrades. The Roberts put about $7.5 million into renovations of some of the top floors before the water damage forced them to shut down the hotel.

Taylor, the auctioneer, expects the Walthall’s next incarnation will be as a condominium or residential apartment building.

“It’s going to need a complete restoration,” he said.

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