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Thrift's buyer doesn't want unused building

The buyer of defunct Pioneer Savings Bank has decided against buying a never-used Pioneer office as part of the deal, leaving it up to federal regulators to try to sell the hapless building. Officials with the federal Resolution Trust Corp. (RTC) said since retaking control of it last month, they have had plenty of inquiries about the 3,100-square-foot building on Mariner Boulevard near State Road 50.

But if past efforts to sell the building are any indication, they have their work cut out for them.

Just ask real estate broker Paul Petti, who tried to peddle the building for almost a year.

In trying to sell the building for Pioneer, Petti first called banks and thrifts in Hernando County and then elsewhere in the state. He later called out-of-state financial institutions he thought might want to move into the area. As a last resort, he even contacted coin and antique brokers who might be in need of a vault for their business.

In all, Petti estimates, he contacted at least 50 people about the building, which he was selling for a moderately priced $685,000.

Nobody wanted to buy it.

"I never had an offer," said Petti, who works in the Tampa office of CB Commercial Real Estate Group, formerly Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate Services.

"I think a lot of it has to do with the problems in the financial industry these days," Petti said. "You don't see a lot of new bank branches these days."

Not even Great Western Bank, the California-based thrift that bought most of Pioneer in March from federal regulators, wanted the building.

Great Western decided last month to not buy the Spring Hill office and three other former Pioneer offices throughout the state. Instead, the offices were turned back over to the RTC.

The RTC took over Pioneer, which was based in Clearwater, and its 33 offices in February 1990 after declaring that the thrift was undercapitalized. The Spring Hill office was still under construction when Pioneer was seized. As a result, it never opened.

Andrea Plater, an RTC spokeswoman in Atlanta, said the Spring Hill branch has received a tremendous amount of interest in the past month.

She admitted, though, that some savings and loans asset liquidations take up to five years.

Until the building is sold, it will continue to cost federal tax dollars to maintain its surroundings. The building also may depreciate.

"I hope something will finally come about with it," Petti said.

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