Lowndes supervisors OK new tourism board office

April 5, 2011 10:08:00 AM

Garthia Elena Burnett -


The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors Monday approved the purchase of the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau''s new office space at 117 Third St. S., behind the Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center. 


The purchase fell under scrutiny as the city of Columbus and Lowndes County attempted to clarify the purpose and authority of the CVB board. The CVB entered into contract for the new space, about 4,000 square feet of reception area, storage and offices, prior to getting approval from the city or county boards. Then, when the bank-ordered appraisal assessed the value of the building at $600,000, below the purchase price of $734,881, the boards questioned whether or not they legally could approve the purchase. 


The price tag presented to the supervisors on Monday was slightly higher than previously reported. The CVB will pay $753,637 for its portion of the mixed-use building, initially developed by Castle Properties. River Ridge Condominiums, formerly Columbus Castle Five, which is owned by West Brothers, now owns the property. The new price includes additional fiber optic work and out-of-pocket expenses incurred by West Brothers Construction. The company got the green light for the CVB to occupy the building on Feb. 17. 


A new appraisal, commissioned by the CVB, appraised the space at $850,000, CVB attorney David Dunn reported to supervisors. Dunn said the initial appraisal was performed with resale value in mind, in the event the bank had to foreclose and sell the property. 


"That is not fair market value," Dunn said. "That is liquidated value." 


Stewart Stafford of Columbus performed the initial appraisal. Brian Pray of Oxford, who specializes in appraising mixed-use condominium buildings, conducted the second appraisal. 


CVB Interim Director Nancy Carpenter and board members George Swales and Whirllie Byrd attended the meeting. The CVB will make another presentation today to the Columbus City Council. 


The CVB already has paid $224,035.74 toward the property. The remainder will be financed by Bancorp South, for a monthly payment of about $3,000, with a 2.95-percent interest rate, over the next 15 years. 


"This has been a process and every day, we are moving in a direction to make the buying of the building complete," Carpenter said. 


Carpenter said she looks forward to being able to move into the building next week, once Pilgrimage wraps up, pending approval from the City Council.