Merced city staffers will begin to negotiate with Merced Sun-Star representatives on the purchase price of the newspaper’s building after a vote Monday by the City Council.
Council members said they need to know what the building would cost before they can go any further with plans for a new police station. The city can’t sell the undeveloped site at Mansionette Drive and Yosemite Avenue, which was originally marked as the station’s new home, until it has a new site for the headquarters.
Leaders are looking at a few options for the new station. Most of them agreed that the best option would be to purchase the 3033 G St. newspaper office and level it.
“If we can get that property, tear it down, get what we want, then it gives future growth where we need to be,” police Chief Norm Andrade said.
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That option is only a realistic one, council members said, if the price of the newspaper office is equal to or less than what the city could get for the Mansionette site. Leaders have said that property, which is north of Yosemite Avenue across from Raley’s, should be used for retail and not a public building.
This city has so little property available for retail.
Mayor Stan Thurston
Frank Quintero, Merced’s economic development director, said the city estimates the Sun-Star office could go for $1.5 million to $2.5 million, noting that the city and newspaper representatives have not yet negotiated. The Mansionette property is likely worth $1.7 million to $1.9 million, he said.
A real estate broker and a company administrator will oversee the negotiation with the city, according to Ken Riddick, publisher of the Merced Sun-Star. “While we’re optimistic about the actions taken at council, it’s very early in the process,” he said.
Readers of the Sun-Star have wondered what would happen to the news agency if the building sells. The Sun-Star has been serving the Merced community since 1925 – long before being in the G Street location, Riddick noted. It will remain in town, he said.
“As we evolve as a multimedia provider of news and information and multiplatform marketing solutions, we continue to be committed to our readers and the businesses in the region,” he said. “That relevance and credibility isn’t about the building we house our staff in, it’s about an amazing professional staff making Merced a better place to live and work.”
Of the police station options being considered this week, the plan to buy the Sun-Star office and level it would be the most expensive at an estimated $17.2 million. One other option, which would be to build on Mansionette, is about a half-million dollars cheaper than the demolition and construction on G Street, according to city estimates. City leaders stressed that the northern lot should be used to attract retail business, which could generate tax dollars.
$17.2 millionEstimated cost to demolish building on G Street and build station from scratch
“This city has so little property available for retail,” Mayor Stan Thurston said, calling the Mansionette site “prime” retail space.
John Sagin, the city’s senior architect, said refurbishing the G Street building would essentially consist of gutting everything from the inside and taking out its second floor, all improvements required to meet earthquake, Americans with Disabilities Act and other regulations.
The improvements to the G Street spot would be $4 million cheaper than razing it and starting over, according to city records. City staffers stressed that remodeling projects typically come with unforeseen expenses beyond the initial appraisals.
Leaders said they would likely have to ask voters to support a bond measure to finance the work. A bond measure for a specific project would require a 55 percent vote for approval, according to the Merced County Registrar’s Office.
Selling that extra $4 million cost to residents could be a difficult task, Councilman Michael Belluomini said, without clear evidence of benefits from the surplus dollars. “We could be shooting ourselves in the foot right now by making this decision that will come back to haunt us when we’re trying to get tax money agreed to from the voters,” he said.