Hollister eyes former bank site

In a continuing effort to enhance the attractiveness of downtown
Hollister, the City Council on Monday authorized City Manager
George Lewis to enter negotiations for the purchase of a
three-story building at 500 San Benito Street previously maintained
by Union Bank.
In a continuing effort to enhance the attractiveness of downtown Hollister, the City Council on Monday authorized City Manager George Lewis to enter negotiations for the purchase of a three-story building at 500 San Benito Street previously maintained by Union Bank.

Union Bank of California, which recently maintained the building, moved its operations to a site near the Nob Hill/Target shopping center on Airline Highway about two weeks ago.

For decades, the historic Holland Hotel claimed the same corner site at Fifth and San Benito streets. All four stories of the building were then fully utilized.

For the past 12 years, however, no businesses or persons have used the building’s upper three floors, according to Bill Avera, director of the Hollister Redevelopment Agency.

But the agency wants to change that.

At an appraised value of $495,000 – or $26 per square foot – city officials think they would get a fair deal on the building’s purchase.

“It’s a pretty valid redevelopment project,” Avera said. “We’ve had an under-utilized building there for a number of years.”

The plan includes restoration of the building to its “original grandeur” along with seismic and structural retrofits and new elevators, according to city staff reports. The city wants the first floor continually used for retail purposes, with plans to lease the property after renovations are completed.

Possible uses for the top three floors include offices, a hotel, educational services or senior housing.

Councilmember Pauline Valdivia addressed concerns, though, over using the location for senior housing, citing its potential proximity to a noisy area of town.

Mayor Tony LoBue asked Avera, who presented the proposal, why city money should be used to buy the building when a private business could make the purchase instead.

“We don’t want the top floors to sit (vacant) for another 20 years,” Lewis replied.

Avera said Redevelopment Agency staff would immediately start beautification of the building while Lewis handles the business side.

“We can do environmental work ourselves, do the appraisal ourselves, do cost evaluation to see what it’s going to cost to clean up,” Avera said. “Then we’ll go from there.”

The city is hiring Cullinan Appraisal and Realty to verify accuracy of Union Bank’s appraisal. That service will cost $4,000.

In 1983, Hollister started a redevelopment project to expand public facilities, upgrade infrastructure, revitalize downtown, improve buildings, develop the economy and create housing opportunities.

“The whole point of revitalization of downtown is to try to get as many businesses downtown as possible,” Avera said.

In other business at Monday’s Council meeting:

– Council adopted a resolution to accept bids for constructing a Domestic Wastewater Seasonal Storage Pond. The project stems from the American Civil Liabilities fine of $1.2 million for a 15-million-gallon sewage spill in May.

According to the ACL, all of the fine goes toward county projects, including the storage pond’s estimated price of $225,000.

The new area will have a capacity of 30 million gallons of treated effluent, which will serve as an emergency water storage pond. Lewis said, for example, it can be used during a massive rainstorm or to transport water during construction of the domestic wastewater treatment plant. After the DWWTP completion – scheduled for Oct. 15, 2005 – the storage pond will no longer be necessary.

– Council adopted a resolution to sign a contract for the Sunnyslope Water District and the San Benito County Water District to cooperatively operate the Lessalt Water Treatment Plant. The districts plan to split both the cost and water from the plant.

– Council approved a pay raise of $100 a month for Councilmembers. The new rate, in accordance with state population standards of other cities, will be $400 per month.

– Council adopted a resolution to officially endorse Proposition 46, a statewide initiative on the Nov. 5 ballot that would provide funding for emergency shelter beds for homeless and battered women, along with better housing for seniors and poor families.

LoBue and Councilman Tony Bruscia voted against the resolution. Bruscia cited the state’s budget crisis and also said the bill would probably favor larger metropolitan areas.

The act would sell $2.1 billion in general obligation bonds to fund 21 housing programs. But, as Bruscia pointed out, the interest alone over the next 30 years may total more than the utilized funding.

-E-mail Kollin Kosmicki at [email protected]

Leave your comments