Seattle Public Schools bowed out early in the online auction for the former Federal Reserve bank building in downtown Seattle, but the district will keep looking for options for a downtown school.

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Seattle Public Schools dropped out early in the bidding for the former Federal Reserve building in downtown Seattle when the price climbed beyond the district’s final bid of $5.8 million.

The online auction for the massive concrete edifice ended Saturday — about 10 days after Seattle Public Schools bowed out — when it was sold to an as-yet-unidentified bidder for $16 million.

The district had hoped to convert the building, which sits on Second Avenue between Madison and Spring streets, into a downtown elementary school.

Seattle Public Schools first tried to get the building for free last summer under a complex federal process for unloading surplus government property. But the U.S. Department of Education returned the district’s application, saying its proposal was too tentative.

School Board members voted unanimously against submitting a revised application, saying the district didn’t have the money in hand — about $53 million, by district projections — to turn the building into an elementary school within the required three years. The district could have faced fines for not meeting the tight schedule.

Then last month, the School Board agreed to try again, bidding on the property at auction, which would have allowed the district, if successful, to renovate the building on its own schedule.

The School Board authorized the district to bid up to 10 percent more than the site’s current assessed value, which is about $5.2 million according to the district’s appraisal, said Lester “Flip” Herndon Jr., assistant superintendent for capital, facilities and enrollment planning.

Seattle Public Schools was “Bidder #1” among eight participants in the federal auction and cast the opening bid of $1 million on Jan. 24. The district also was the first to bow out.

The auction originally was slated to end on Jan. 28, but under federal auction rules the bidding continued until the highest bid went unchallenged for 24 hours.

The building has been vacant since 2008, when the Federal Reserve moved its regional offices to Renton.

The district has no immediate plans to construct a school on another site downtown, though a little less than $5 million remains in the construction budget to keep looking for options.

“We’ll certainly continue to explore opportunities as we hear about them or they present themselves, ” Herndon said.