City officials Monday night approved a measure giving St. Augustine Realtor Irene Arriola of Saltwater Property Group the exclusive right to sell the former M&M Market at 102 Bridge St. Asking price: $345,000.

“It’s a challenging property,” Arriola told the board. The contract says, “The property is offered ‘as is,’ with no warranties expressed or implied.” It also says the property will not be used as a bar and that “seller reserves the right to further restrict the property.”

In addition, Arriola took on the task after waiving the usual 3.5 percent commission paid to sellers. Another local real estate broker had been asked to sell the structure but turned the offer down when he learned he wouldn’t get the selling agent’s customary 3.5 percent commission. A commissioner then asked Arriola to do it, and she accepted.

Asking only for reimbursement of necessary expenses, Saltwater Property Group broker Irene Arriola will enter into an exclusive listing agreement with the City of St Augustine to find a buyer for the 102 Bridge Street market that was purchased by the City in November 2010.

Arriola told the St Augustine City Commission Monday night that she would forego her traditional 3.5% listing fee; which covers marketing the property in the local MLS and advertising costs. If Arriola brings a buyer, she said that she would also donate the 3.5% sales commission when the deal closes. If a cooperating broker brings a buyer, the City is obligated to pay them the traditional 3.5% sales commission.

The City spent $300,000 to acquire the property in order to settle legal arguments and avoid what was suggested would be an expensive and lengthy seizure procedure. Commissioners also felt that it was important to have some control over who the next owner or occupant would be.

The former owners were prosecuted under Florida’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act. All assets were seized and the business was closed at the conclusion of the eight-month long investigation that included undercover officers, confidential informants and surveillance; undertaken by four different law enforcement agencies.

The building, despite its questionable state of repair, is considered by some, including City Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline, to be a historical structure. Sikes-Kline found no support in the Monday night meeting for a restriction that would specifically prohibit a buyer from demolishing the building.

“We don’t demolish history in St Augustine, we preserve it,” Sikes-Kline said. Commissioners Leanna Freeman and Errol Jones said that demolition “would not necessarily be a deal breaker” for them; depending on other conditions in the purchase offer.

The commission also expressed objections to anyone proposing another convenience store, or market that sold beer and wine; saying that’s what got the previous owner in trouble in the first place. They also said that they would not permit it to be used as a bar or lounge.

The former M&M Market was the source of 608 various citizen complaint calls handled by the St Augustine Police Department in the 24 months prior to its seizure in November of 2010.

The property was listed at $345,000; however, Arriola told the commissioners that she “had no illusions” that a buyer would materialize with an offer at that price. When asked specifically about demolition and other yet undetermined restrictions that commissioners envision placing on the future use of the property, Arriola replied that the more they add, the less likely they are to find a willing buyer.

Among other criticism directed against the City for purchasing what some are calling “a white elephant”, one complaint is that, so long as the property is owned by the City, it generates no ad valorem tax income. The lost tax revenue that could have been generated on the commercial lot and improvements in 2010 is estimated to have been $6,580.

Irene Arriola Real Estate, Inc.
81 King Street, Suite B Saint Augustine, FL 32084
Email: [email protected] | Office phone: 904.829.2002
Cell phone: 904.669.0691 | Fax: 904.829.2029