AuctionpicThe big money stayed home.

Once again, Red Bank’s efforts to auction off a borough-owned building at the corner of Drs. Parker Boulevard and Bridge Avenue have failed.

At a scheduled auction this afternoon, nobody bid. The same thing happened in April, the last time the borough tried to auction the structure, soon to be the ex-home of the Count Basie Learning Center.

The problem? The minimum $800,000 bid set by the borough council.

“I’d be interested in bidding, but not at $800,000,” said architect Michael Simpson. “Eight-hundred-thousand is an absurd number.”

The auction, run by Borough Administrator Stanley Sickels, was attended only by Simpson; a business associate of Simpson; and children’s activist David Prown and his two daughters.

Earlier this year, Simpson and his business partner paid $1.3 million for the former Public School 5 building next door to the learning center. That building is on half an acre of land, has a parking lot, and is more than twice the size of the Learning Center, which has little or no room for expansion and no off-street parking. And parking is prohibited along both sides of the learning center’s corner property.

Simpson said the appraisal that the borough used to set the minimum value of the property was flawed at the time of the first scheduled auction, and that the real estate market has taken a dive since then.

The failed auction may give new life to activists, led by Prown, who want the town to hold onto the property and convert it to some type of community use. Earlier today, Prown sent out a blast email letting residents know that Mayor Pasquale Menna has put the topic on Monday night’s borough council agenda.

Whether any minds on the dais will be changed remains doubful, though. Council members were fairly dug in against the proposal when it came up at the last session. They cited a host of constraints on such usage, including the absence of parking and a location that would require children to cross busy streets to get to.

What happens next with the borough’s sale effort was an unanswered question as of this afternoon. Sickels said the council would have to decide whether to reduce or eliminate the minimum bid.

“I think the minimum bid is obviously the problem,” he said.

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