16-story office tower in Mesa headed to auction block - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

16-story office tower in Mesa headed to auction block

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Posted: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 4:38 pm | Updated: 4:35 pm, Wed Dec 3, 2014.

The Mesa Financial Plaza - the 16-story office tower home to Bank of America - is in foreclosure and headed to the auction block.

The building, highlighted by blue argon lights, has been one of the East Valley's most notable structures since it opened in 1986. Since then, the iconic tower's wildly changing fortunes have been symbolic of Arizona's economy.

The building is now about half full and set to be auctioned Aug. 11. A minimum bid hasn't been set, said Don Miner, an attorney with Fennemore Craig who is the trustee on the pending sale.

The building at Southern Avenue and Alma School road has changed hands many times, selling in 2006 for $55 million and in 2007 for $57.7 million. The value of office buildings has plunged since then, as the Valley's 26 percent office vacancy rate is one of the nation's highest.

Still, the court-appointed receiver expects investors will look at the building as the auction approaches.

"It's a landmark asset so I'm assuming there's going to be a lot of interest once we get to that point," said Kevin Rude of Grubb and Ellis.

The auction is just the latest chapter in the building's storied past.

It was developed by Conley Wolfswinkel, a land baron whose real estate empire went bust in another recession two decades ago. Wolfswinkel was convicted of fraud in 1993 but has remained active in his family's vast real estate holdings.

The building initially was the home of Western Savings and Loan, one of many financial institutions taken over by the federal government in the savings and loan debacle.

And, the tower's signature blue outline was initially controversial. Mesa considered the argon light a massive sign - and a massive violation of city regulations. The building was able to keep the lights on a 90-day trial basis, and rewritten rules eventually let the lights stay permanently.

After numerous sales, the building won an award for a 2008 renovation.

One of the building's tenants was Mesa City Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh. His law firm left after seven years because the owners didn't adjust rents as the economy slowed and other buildings offered better rates.

"It's a great building in a great location, but I think it fell victim to the economy and not taking care of tenants, or at least being willing to make agreements to maintain great tenants," Kavanaugh said.

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