Commissioners eye Kress building

The Kress building at 201. W. California St. in Gainesville.

The county could soon take ownership of a nearly 20,000-square-foot building catty-corner from the Cooke County Courthouse.

During a specially called meeting Monday, Sept. 21, members of the Cooke County Commissioners' Court unanimously agreed to purchase the Kress building, 201 W. California St., for $900,000. All members of the court were present for the vote.

The decision was made after commissioners spent 20 minutes in closed session to discuss real property.

The 5-0 vote also amended the county's budget to be able to make the purchase. A total of $900,000 was moved from contingency in permanent improvement to an expense line in permanent improvement, according to County Auditor Shelly Atteberry.

Cooke County Judge Jason Brinkley said the cost for the building is less than $50 per square foot which he explained “is substantially cheaper than the cost for new commercial construction.”

“We have several offices that have reached operating capacity regarding their available space,” Brinkley told the Register. “This building will allow us to expand by likely moving some administrative departments and consolidating some smaller buildings.”

Brinkley said he could not elaborate on what buildings and departments he is referring to because there are “a lot of options on the table.”

The Kress building, formerly known as S.H. Kress & Co., was part of a chain of 5, 10 and 25-cent stores established in 1896 to sell “affordable, durable and cheerful domestic merchandise,” according to the Kress Foundation, established in 1929 by the chain's founder. Kress stores across the country began liquidating in 1980.

Today, the former Kress store serves as an office building and is owned by VEREIT Inc., an Arizona-based commercial real estate investment company.

“The plan for this building is to help provide for county government needs for the years and potentially decades to come,” Brinkley said.

He said the county is entering a 120-day due diligence period to have the building thoroughly inspected.

Members of the commissioners' court voted Monday morning to hire Fort-Worth-based Southwest Architects Inc. to inspect the property on the corner of California and Commerce streets. According to a copy of the service agreement, the company's proposed fee is $7,500. However, the initial inspection does not include an asbestos survey which is required for remodeling. Southwest Architects estimated that an asbestos survey for the facility would cost about $6,000 by a licensed environmental specialist.

The topic will be back before members of the court after the engineering inspections, Brinkley said Tuesday, Sept. 22.

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