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July 2, 2014

Developer interested in TCAPS administration building

TRAVERSE CITY — A developer represented by a real estate agent who has ties to a Traverse City Area Public Schools board member approached district officials about buying the district’s administration building — a facility that isn’t officially for sale.

District officials received a letter from local real estate agent Mark Eckhoff on Tuesday that stated one of his clients was “willing to pay the current appraised value for the building and can close within 30 days.”

The letter came about two weeks after Eckhoff, of Traverse City-based commercial real estate and consulting firm Three West, and Traverse City real estate developer Gene LaFave showed up unannounced and inspected TCAPS’ administration building, at the intersection of Boardman Avenue and Webster Street.

TCAPS interim Superintendent Paul Soma found Eckhoff and LaFave looking around a basement area and asked them what they were doing.

“They said they were interested in the building,” Soma said. “That was the word they used; they were ‘interested.’”

School board member Scott Hardy said he received a phone call from Eckhoff and LaFave that day. The two men were in the administration building parking lot and wanted to know what the procedure was for entering the building, Hardy said.

Eckhoff previously worked on Hardy’s reelection campaign when Hardy served on the Traverse City Commission.

Hardy said he’s only briefly discussed the administration building with LaFave and Eckhoff.

“No more than they said, ‘Is it for sale?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know. That’s something you are going to have to check with administration at this point,’” Hardy said.

Soma said he walked Eckhoff and LaFave through the building’s basement after he found them inside. He also provided a copy of the building’s appraisal to LaFave when he asked for it.

LaFave said he is interested in the building and said its redevelopment would be “wonderful” for Traverse City, but his inquiry about the purchase is still in an early stage.

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