The auctioneer stood in front of a small crowd and called for bids for Lodi's Sunset Theater on Thursday, but no one budged.
Only a few Lodi residents showed up to the San Joaquin County Superior Courthouse steps, and none offered bids. So for the time being, the building will continue to simply sit on West Lodi Avenue.
Priced at what local real estate agents have claimed to be a "reasonable" price of $300,000, Lodi residents who did attend the auction stood in silence as the auctioneer read off the price and waited for bids, though none came.
The building is now in the hands of Los Angeles-based private mortgage company Pacifica First National, Inc., with Avi Bienenfeld, vice president of the company, on hand Thursday to see how the auction would play out.
Because no one stepped forward to purchase the building, ownership reverts back to his mortgage company, Bienenfeld said. The building is now called a "perfect title property," meaning the building is now free of liens and legal questions as to ownership of the theater.
"We plan to market the building, and will not sell it for lower than $300,000," he said. "This was not a normal process. We have finished off building projects such as this in the past, so we know what to do, but normally this is not the process most companies go through to sell a building."
But for the time being, the building will continue to remain vacant until Bienenfeld can send a crew to Lodi to assess the theater and see what cleaning or repairs need to be done. He said it could take anywhere from two to three weeks before assessments could take place. The size of the lot alone is massive, totaling over 22,000 square feet. The building itself boasts more than 10,000 square feet.
For Lodi resident Dan Wilson, who lives in the housing complex immediately behind the theater, the Sunset Theater could not be more of a problem.
While he was surprised the building did not sell at auction Thursday, he said demolition or some other type of cleanup should be considered soon to try and fix the host of issues that come with the homeless people and drug addicts that he says frequents the back of the building or who have found ways to get inside the theater.
"It's hell living behind the Sunset," he said. "Drug addicts leave discarded needles lying around that kids could step on, and the theater itself is more than just an eyesore. Any type of business here would be better than the blight the theater is right now."
City spokesman Jeff Hood said there is not much the city can do to try to move along the process of improving the area. He said the most the city could do should they get involved would be to update the building in terms of code enforcement such as parking spot requirements or fire safety.
Hood said the building's interior has apparently been completely gutted and that the theater itself is "a shell."
"It's been for sale for a long time so it's not surprising (the building) didn't sell considering the condition it's in," he said. "The city would like to see some change there certainly, either see it demolished or renovated. But the obstacles for renovation are daunting to say the least."
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