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City renews work on Somerton commercial building
SOMERTON — Somerton is spending $160,000 to seal and stucco an unfinished commercial building to protect it from the elements until city officials decide what to do with it.
The city bought the 10,000-square-foot building for $315,000 a year ago with the idea of possibly using it to attract small businesses to the area.
The wooden exterior of the unfinished building at 674 E. Main St. has begun to fall into disrepair, said Mayor Martin Porchas, and “we want to prevent it from getting damaged any further and costing us more to repair it. Also we want it to present a good image to visitors, since it's on the Main Street and at the entrance to the city.”
The prior owner began work on the building in 2008 but halted the project amid the recession, city officials said.
Over the past two weeks, workers have been applying sealant and stucco to the exterior to protect the structure, located on the north side of Main Street on the city's east end.
The council and other Somerton officials will gather for a retreat in February to discuss the priorities for the new year, and the building is expected to be on the agenda.
At the time the council approved the purchase, one proposal under consideration was to lease out individual space inside the building to small businesses. The idea was to spur needed economic development in the city to attract a variety of businesses and services that residents could find only by traveling out of Somerton.
The purchase was approved on a 4-2 vote in September 2011, with the two council members opposed to it arguing that the city could not afford the cost of buying and finishing the building.
One of those who cast a dissenting vote was Councilman Jose Yepez, who now says the city has no choice but to spend the money to pick up where the former owner left off.
“The building now belongs to the city, and it can't be allowed to fall into neglect. A lot was spent to buy it. Now we have to decide what we're going to do with it, try to sell it soon or look for someone to rent it.”
Porchas said the city has received some proposals to purchase or rent it, none of which has materialized.
One option Porchas likes is giving tenants a break on rent in return for their finishing the work in whatever portions of the building they occupy.
“We'll look at all that in February. The main thing is we want is to rent it so that it becomes an investment that brings jobs or good revenue to the city. Or if we decide to sell it, (we want) to recoup more than what we paid for it, and we want it to be project that is good for the community.”
City Administrator Bill Lee said the building could house social services organizations now occupying the downtown, allowing business to move into those spaces.