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A City Council committee today gave a warm reception to a proposed overhaul to the city’s Real Estate Asset Department, including efforts to sell some of the city’s vast real estate portfolio and change the way that land is sold.

“This is unique. No municipality owns and manages as much real estate as we do,” said James Barwick, the department’s director. And no private outfit, he added, oversees such a diverse portfolio.

Barwick presented the council with an overview of a study performed by Grubb & Ellis that recommends overhauling the city’s real estate department to make it run more like a private business. The report paints the picture of a department that is not trained or equipped to actively manage the city’s leases and portfolio.

The department is asking for permission to sell land through a traditional broker rather than through a public auction, which is the current council policy. It also wants the “authority in a box” to sell properties through a general strategy rather than having to return to the City Council to finalize each sale.

Jim Madaffer, councilman and chairman of the Land Use and Housing Committee, said he approved of most of the presentation, but questioned removing the council’s final approval.

Jim Waring, the city’s land-use czar, said the department is also hoping to use certain properties to stimulate different types of housing throughout the city.

Here’s a story we recently did on how the city came to acquire some of its land and the sub-market rent it charges on some. And here’s another on the first batch of land posted for potential sale.

Mayor Jerry Sanders plans to sell $100 million in city land over the next 5 years. Waring pledged that land would first be studied for long-term leasing before it is sold. He said he hopes to put the city’s first round of property sales on the open market by May.

ANDREW DONOHUE

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