Washington City Hall

It is back to the proverbial drawing board for Washington leaders after zero proposals for developing the former Freight Depot and Waterworks Building were received by Friday’s deadline.

Washington Community and Economic Development Director Sal Maniaci said the lack of proposals was a surprise, given that both properties had sparked a number of inquiries to city officials from potential developers. 

“We will go back to the city council, regroup and figure out our next steps,” Maniaci said Friday. 

On Monday, he said that he has since spoken with a developer who wanted to lease one of the properties but was concerned about labor shortages. 

“They were concerned about the lack of help, of not being able to find employees,” Maniaci said. He added their concerns included workers to help oversee the renovations of the two buildings and to staff it once the businesses were operational. 

“The labor shortage is affecting a lot of industries,” Maniaci said. “People are having a hard time right now finding workers.” 

According to advertisements in The Missourian, more than 40 different Washington-area employers representing a broad cross-section of employment fields are looking to hire new employees. 

In mid-June, city officials announced they were seeking lease proposals for the historic properties. The deadline for submitting the proposals was 2 p.m. Friday. 

The proposals were required to include details about the proposed use of the building, any planned renovations, a description of parking needs and a timeline for remodeling and occupancy.

The Freight Depot, at 325 W. Front St., was built in 1865. It is 3,000 square feet, and the leaseholder would be able to use the public parking lot immediately adjacent to the building. 

The Waterworks Building, located at 1 Elbert Drive, was constructed in 1888 by the Interstate Gas and Waterworks Co. It has been owned by the city since 1916. The building was most recently used as an antiques business. It has a basement and a second floor, both measuring about 650 square feet. The main floor has 2,160 square feet. 

City officials said the lack of proposals is just a temporary setback. 

“We are still confident that we will have someone to fill them,” Maniaci said. He said he has begun reaching out to every winery within a 90-mile radius and breweries who have participated in Washington’s Brewfest over the past several years to gauge their interest in the properties, which have been marketed as possible sites for a tasting room. Other possible uses include general retail, short-term lodging, a restaurant, a bicycle rental or some park-friendly and pedestrian-friendly activity.  

Any negotiations between potential leaseholders and the city will be conducted in closed session, but will be announced publicly, according to Maniaci.