ST. LOUIS – There appears to be no going back on the state of Missouri’s plan to sell a historic building in downtown St. Louis and move hundreds of jobs.

FOX 2 has confirmed an online auction for the historic Wainwright Building on Seventh Street has already begun. 

The Missouri Board of Public Buildings is made up of three top state officeholders: Gov. Mike Parson, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, and Attorney General Andrew Bailey. They voted unanimously to sell a building that is considered to be “the first skyscraper.” About 400 state employees work in the building, which also houses a satellite governor’s office.   

The online auction site lists the starting price at $5,000,000 and an auction end date of Aug. 29. 

Gov. Parson calls the sale a business decision, noting that downtown crime is not the sole factor.

“I don’t think that’s the reason we’re moving…look, St. Louis has got to deal with the crime situation. It’s got to get better for people to want to come in there and stay,” Parson said. “We look and see what those facilities cost us—can we do it cheaper? Can we move to another facility, just like anybody else in the business world? We’ve been doing things like that for the last six years, trying to combine our efforts, whether it’s buildings like that in St. Louis (or) Springfield.”

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The state bought the 132-year-old building 50 years ago under former Republican Gov. Christopher “Kit” Bond. 

“We do have very real problems but the state should be our partner in solving those problems,” Jared Boyd, chief of staff for Mayor Tishaura Jones, said.

The state is also selling the Mill Creek building, which is about a mile and a half away on Jefferson Avenue near U.S. Interstate 40/64. The building holds around 200 state employees.

Downtown Alderwoman Cara Spencer says the news is devastating for the city.

“Not only will the loss of jobs negatively impact our bottom line, but the breakdown in communication between our state and city officials is alarming. We need an administration that works closely with state officials to increase, not greatly diminish, the state’s commitment to the city of St. Louis,” she said.

The state’s decision came without warning, Boyd said.

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Greater St. Louis Inc., which promotes economic growth for the region, calls the news “unwelcome and unhelpful,” noting that downtown is the economic hub for a region that accounts for more than 40% of economic activity in the state.

Boyd, however, says the mayor’s staff has learned a number of the jobs from the two buildings will move into the mostly vacant state-owned Keathley building on Chouteau Avenue, just outside of downtown, keeping most of the jobs in the City of St. Louis.

A number of workers in the Wainwright building told FOX 2 Wednesday that they had already been told their jobs were to buildings elsewhere in the City of St. Louis.

“A lot of the employees from these buildings are going to remain in the city,” Boyd said. “I think it would have been great if we would have had that information when this was announced to push back on some misconceptions about all 600 workers leaving the City of St. Louis.  We will continue to work with the state … to see if there’s room for other employees to remain in the City of St. Louis.”

Exactly how many state jobs the city will be losing is still unknown, he said.