After months of wrangling, federal marshals have finally sold the building that holds the Manassas Post Office to local restaurant owners — but for a lower bid than they were offered previously.
The Post Office in Old Town Manassas is a symbol of small town life, and the city has tried to ensure that the Postal Service would stay by placing restrictions on the sale of the building when city officials sold it in 2006.
But the new owner, Linda Sadr, was engaged in a mortgage Ponzi scheme. Sadr plead guilty to various charges last year.
The U.S. Marshals Service seized the building and put it up for auction last spring and summer. Officials said they wanted to get the highest price they could to help pay restitution to the victims of Sadr’s crimes.
During the second auction, at the end of August, the top bid was $355,000 from the three Veltsistas brothers, who own the Manassas restaurant City Tavern. Officials accepted the bid, although that price was lower than a previous bid.
“Although an earlier higher bid was received at the April auction, the U.S. Marshals declined the offer at the time, based on valuations that indicated the property was worth substantially more,” U.S. Marshals Service spokeswoman Lynzey Donahue said in a statement.
Pete Veltsistas said he knows he's lucky to get the building and escape with a lower bid. He said he wants to see what happens with the lease on the long-running City Tavern restaurant before deciding what to do with the space. The lease runs out in 2014.
If he chooses not to renovate and relocate his restaurant to the building, he said it could be turned into offices and apartments around the Post Office, which is there to stay, he said, unless the Postal Service decides not to renew the lease.
“It’s a historic building, a good looking building , and it’s got a lot of potential,” Veltsistas said. “We want to be part of this town, and ... we thought it was a great deal.”
In April, the agency had put the building on the auction block and fetched $385,000. Miguel Peres and Chris Salisbury, who had hoped to buy the building together, said they were excited. Pires, a Manassas native and restaurant owner, said he had long eyed the brick building with long windows as something he might own someday. Pires owns Carmello’s in Old Town, and Salisbury owns two construction-related businesses.
But the pair’s bid was rejected because federal Marshals hoped to get a higher bid — closer to the property’s listed price of between $700,000 and $750,000, a disappointed Pires said at the time.
Turns out, Pires was right when he said that a higher price wasn’t coming.