Mountain View Voice

News - May 21, 2010

City on property buying spree?

by Daniel DeBolt

The city might purchase property at four different downtown locations, including the historic building on Castro Street which houses the Monte Carlo night club.

In a closed session discussion Tuesday, the City Council considered purchasing properties including an old vacant craftsman home at 902 Villa Street, two adjoining properties at the corner of California and Castro streets and a home at 449 Franklin St. that backs up to a possible site for a downtown grocery store.

City manager Kevin Duggan said it was unlikely that the city would buy more than one of the properties. Economic development director Ellis Berns has said the purchase of such properties at low, recession prices could help the city revitalize the downtown. The money would come from downtown revitalization authority funds, which now total $4.3 million, with another $4 million in revenue likely before the downtown tax district expires in 2011.

According to a city Web page tracking the availability of downtown properties, the owners of 228 Castro Street are asking $4.5 million for the Monte Carlo night club property, which was once the city's downtown movie theater.

The home at 902 Villa Street, at the corner of Bryant Street, was once home to store called the House of Forgotten Treasures and has a vacant lot behind it. The asking price is $1.39 million. It is unclear how the city would use this property, or the adjoining properties at the corner of Castro Street and California Street, which are home to a Mediterranean restaurant and a small office building directly behind it at 756 California St.

It is clearer, however, how the city could use another property on the list, 449 Franklin St. The residential property has a house on it and backs up to the city parking lot where the City Council has considered proposals for a long sought-after grocery store downtown. Prospective developers have said the parking lot, at Bryant and California Streets, is just slightly too small to make a downtown grocery store economically viable. The property could presumably allow a larger footprint for the grocery store by allowing truck access to the rear of the building.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com With at least $6 million of downtown revitalization funds and an unknown amount of property acquisition funds

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