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Originally published January 10, 2012 at 4:14 PM | Page modified January 11, 2012 at 1:32 PM

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Smith Tower foreclosure auction set for March 23

Smith Tower owner Walton Street Capital defaulted on loans totaling $42.5 million.

Seattle Times business reporter

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Wanna buy the Smith Tower?

Seattle's first skyscraper, now mostly empty, is slated to be sold at a foreclosure auction March 23 outside the King County Administration Building, according to a notice filed with the county.

Bring a cashier's check: By law, the high bidder must pay the full price at time of sale.

The auction notice was filed last month by a representative of CBRE Capital Markets of New York, which acquired the delinquent mortgage on the troubled Smith Tower last fall and began foreclosure proceedings a few weeks later.

A court-appointed receiver took control of the 42-story landmark in early December.

The historic office building's owner, Chicago-based Walton Street Capital, has defaulted on loans totaling $42.5 million that it took out when it bought the Smith Tower and an adjacent two-story building in 2006, according to public records.

Most foreclosure auctions in Washington result in the lender taking title to the property, because other bids — if any — fall short of the outstanding debt. Walton Street owes more than $43 million on the Smith Tower loan, which matured last April, according to the auction notice.

CBRE presumably paid less than that for the nonperforming mortgage, but the price hasn't been revealed.

King County values the Smith Tower for tax purposes at $21.3 million — less than half what Walton Street paid for it less than six years ago.

The 97-year-old Smith Tower is 70 percent vacant, according to CBRE's court filings, and monthly rents don't cover the building's operating expenses.

Walton Street received city approval in 2007 to convert the tower to condos but backed away after the condo market cooled. The building, at Second Avenue and Yesler Way, has languished since, according to real-estate insiders.

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com

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