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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mariana House sold for $900K-plus

Gov. Eloy S. Inos said the Mariana House in Washington, D.C. has been “pretty much sold” to a real estate firm for over $900,000, after years of sitting idle since it stopped being the official residence of the CNMI’s resident representative to the nation’s capital in 2009. The CNMI bought the property for $250,000 to $300,000.

“It’s pretty much sold; we’re just doing the closing documents right now… I believe the selling price, the appraised value of the property is $942,000,” the governor said in an interview at a signing of a proclamation Friday morning declaring January 2014 Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

The administration listed the property, located at 2121 R Street NW Washington, D.C., last year.

At the time, its appraised value was between $800,000 and $1 million.

Senate floor leader Ray Yumul (Ind-Saipan), who has long been suggesting selling the property, said yesterday the “longer we had waited to decide the fate of the Mariana House, the higher the cost of maintenance of the property because it’s idle and lacks occupancy.”

“Considering the fact that we paid so much less for it back in the ‘80s, the CNMI still got a good return on our investment,” Yumul told Saipan Tribune.

The governor said he would report the sales proceeds to the Legislature, along with any new additional revenue that will constitute a supplemental budget.

As what lawmakers suggested, the governor would set aside most, if not all, of the sale proceeds to the Retirement Fund settlement fund.

The governor said the real estate firm that bought the Mariana House is expected to develop the property and then sell it.

For years, the Fitial administration—and later the Inos administration—has been weighing whether to lease or sell the Mariana House.

Taking into consideration the property tax and maintenance costs involved in keeping the property, as well as the CNMI government’s dire need to raise revenues, the administration decided to sell the Mariana House.

Lawmakers have been supportive of selling the property, so long as the proceeds will be dedicated to the government’s obligations to the Retirement Fund.

Rep. Tony Sablan (Ind-Saipan), for example, said earlier that the CNMI can’t afford to allow Mariana House to deteriorate and lose its value. He said renovating the property could cost $200,000 to $300,000 so that it could be priced higher. But he said even if the CNMI renovates the property, there’s no guarantee it can sell it at a much higher price. He said the faster the CNMI gets rid of the property, the better.

Jim Stump, the governor’s counsel, is overseeing the sale.

The Marianas House was bought decades ago to be used by the office of the CNMI’s resident representative to Washington, D.C. It has been sitting idle since 2009 when the resident representative’s office was abolished to give way to the CNMI’s first nonvoting delegate to the U.S. Congress as a result of Public Law 110-229, the same law that placed local immigration under federal control. Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), the CNM’s first and so far only delegate to Congress, never used the property.

In 2011, the Fitial administration planned to lease the Mariana House. But at the time, before the administration could lease out the property, it said it will have to repair the building and clear it of a rat infestation, as complained by a neighbor.

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