AUGUSTA — Shaw’s Plaza was sold, sort of, at auction Wednesday.

The winning bid of $15 million for the prominent Western Avenue shopping center that is home to Shaw’s supermarket, Big Lots, PetLife, Applebee’s and several other stores came from the lender that already held the debt and had initiated the foreclosure auction on the property, LNR Partners of Florida.

A lawyer for LNR Partners, Stephanie Williams, made the $15 million winning bid. She said the company had no comment on its plans for the shopping center.

Auburn developer George Schott, who owns the Auburn Mall, other commercial properties in Maine, and was a partner in the recently built Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel on Western Avenue in Augusta, was the only other bidder. He put in multiple bids for the property as he and Williams bid back and forth, but wouldn’t budge above his highest bid, of $14.5 million, after Williams bid $15 million.

“I tried,” he said after the auction.

Keith Luke, the city of Augusta’s deputy development director, said the tenants of the shopping center, also known as Capitol Shopping Center, will likely remain in place.

“The existing tenants are going to be fine,” Luke said. “The bank would have no interest (in evicting them).”

Luke expects the bank that foreclosed on the property to maintain the property, but likely not make the major investment in improvements he hopes will ultimately take place and revive the somewhat dated shopping plaza at the high-traffic intersection of Western Avenue and Capitol Street.

“This is a holding action,” he said. “We know the bank will take whatever steps are necessary to maintain the integrity of the buildings and satisfy the needs of existing tenants. Those are good things. But in terms of making investments in the property, or giving the property a face-lift or repurposing some of it, that’s not likely going to happen under bank ownership.”

Luke said it may be that the lender and Schott could negotiate further, and perhaps strike a deal for the property. The property is valued by the city, for tax purposes, at $16.4 million, which generates about $334,000 a year in property taxes. He said it is good news the winning bid was $15 million, which he said seems like a reasonable value, not a fire sale price.

Auctioneer Mike Carey, senior vice president of Tranzon Auction Co., oversaw the bidding action inside a vacant former store at the plaza. Before starting, he joked that “I’m about to start talking fast but, really, that’s just for fun. If any registered bidders have a question, during the bidding, stop me and ask. Our goal is to get all the money we can, and if you having a minute or two helps that, I’m glad to do it.”

Carey first sought bids starting at $20 million. Receiving none at that amount, he gradually lowered it, eventually getting to $11 million, where Schott, wearing a sweatshirt and jeans, opened the bidding.

A handful of people observed the auction, but no one other than Schott and Williams made any bids. Bidders had to deposit $100,000 to take part in the auction, which would be refunded to any non-winning bidders. Carey said the winning bidder would have to close the deal for the property within 45 days of the auction.

The property was first scheduled to go to auction Sept. 28, but it was postponed until Wednesday.

The 18.5 acre property includes the main building containing Shaw’s and Dollar Tree, as well as multiple smaller buildings spread across the parking lot, which has entrances on Western Avenue, Capitol Street and Armory Street.

The shopping center was owned by Cap Center Associates L.P., according to city records.

The mortgage holder of the property sought to sell it after the owner apparently breached the conditions of a mortgage, dated Feb. 9, 2007, according to a legal notice filed announcing the auction.

The original structure on the property was built in the late 1960s but some of the outlying buildings were built more recently including the Applebee’s restaurant, built in 2002, and Aspen Dental, built in 2008.

The properties total nearly 200,000 square feet of space.

Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 or [email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj