Earlier this year, the city solicited bids for new city hall space. With the current building in dire need of upgrading, city leaders thought it necessary to relocate, at least temporarily. While the city has not officially settled on a location, SCL has learned that officials are strongly considering moving into 400 E. Main Street—formerly known as the Washington Mutual Building.
For those who have forgotten, Stockton city government has a complicated relationship with the WaMu building. In 2007, Stockton bought the building for $41 million with the intention of using the space as a new city hall. However, the city began missing payments last year and Wells Fargo repossessed the property. Even after this very public embarrassment, the city is now considering leasing space at this location.
Financials aside, moving into the WaMu Building is an absolutely terrible PR move. You can picture the headlines now: “Bankrupt City Leasing out Space in Repossessed City Hall.” News outlets will have a field day. To put it another way, imagine if someone overpaid for a nice, big house, lost that house in foreclosure, and then asked to rent out the basement. This is essentially what might happen between the city and the WaMu Building, except on a much more public scale.
The specifics of the proposals are not public, so I cannot speak to whether or not relocating to the WaMu Building is a financially prudent decision. For all I know, the entity that now owns the building may be offering dirt cheap prices that the city can’t pass up. However, I do know that other bids were submitted and are most likely competitive with whatever the WaMu Building is charging.
If it turns out that the WaMu Building had the lowest bid, then so be it. Stockton can take the hit to its image if it is the most fiscally sound alternative. However, there are a lot of under occupied buildings downtown that are probably offering competitive prices that would not come with the stigma that the WaMu Building comes with. I hope the city makes a decision based on what makes the most financial sense, but I also cringe at the thought of media outlets piling on Stockton once again. What do you think? Take our poll below.