Market Square Hits The Auction Block, Gets Three New Owners

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Knoxville (WVLT) -- Did drug money fuel some of Market Square's rebirth?

Or did the rebirth simply launder the drug money?

The feds say it doesn't matter; the properties Scott and Bernadette West owned, or mortgaged had to be seized and sold.

That’s exactly what happened on Thursday at high noon when the federal government auctioned off three of the West’s Market Square properties.

The auction didn’t keep the business in the family, but ownership will remain local and in the hands of others who have helped in downtown Knoxville’s revival.

“I'm very serious about it, if the price is within my range,” said potential bidder Mark Brackin. Who thought the Preservation Pub would be a good spot for his next blues cub.

He only had one problem.

“It's a little smaller building than I thought it would be,” he said.

Smaller and apparently pricier since the $400,000 bid was won by bidder Tim Hill.

Hill said it was worth it because he will get a lot per square foot and the ability to lease the upstairs.

He also has no plans of getting rid of the Preservation Pub.

“We're bound by their leaseholder rights,” Hill said, “so we don't plan to do anything differently.”

Short-term, neither do the new landlords to be, for the largest parcel that was on the block, currently home to Oodles, World Grotto, and Earth to Old City.

“The leases are most important, but the property is what we were most interested in,” said Jason DeBord, who bid $2.425 Million to bring them into the Cardinal Properties portfolio.

It was close, relatively, coming in only $25,000 more than Rod Townsend Jr's underbid.

“Three months ago, I probably would have been willing to pay a little bit more,” he said, “but I think the market has softened since then.

Even if it has softened, it was still hard enough for Josh Mills to gamble more $530,000 for the shell of Market Squares still vacant Northeastern corner.

“Retail on the first floor and residential on the three stories above,” Mills said of what he plans to do with the building.

“It probably was several years off if Scott and Bernadette still had it,” Townsend said.
The deals aren’t done yet though.

“The government has 72 hours to approve the contracts,” said Mark Wheelus, the property manager and auction supervisor. “They usually do though; they're not in the real estate business.”

The bidders said the dollars that were being shelled out signal that there is momentum going downtown.

“The movie theater coming downtown was huge step in the right direction,” Townsend said.

“The retail starting to take hold, it’s a great investment,” said Jason DeBord, “Otherwise we wouldn't be here.”

No single bidder was willing to match the individual winning bids to buy the three parcels as a block.

The parcels netted the government $3.355 million.

It will be used to repay the feds who had to pay off the West’s outstanding mortgages and liens.

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