Tip List: Skeleton of a building waits for new life

On Park Avenue, just south of Olive, the half-built shell of a building stands behind a fence, its tan wooden bones slowly bleaching in the February sun.

Unfinished buildings are common in Merced these days, but this project has been standing unfinished far longer than most.

Originally envisioned as a senior living facility, the 3015 Park Ave. project stalled way back in 2003 and has been idle ever since. After then the original owners, Park Avenue LLC, filed for bankruptcy, a new owner has taken over the project. But the global, national and local financial meltdown halted the project again in 2008, and the site has been silent ever since.

Usually when building projects grind to a halt like this one, said Stuart England, the city's planning manager on the project, the permits are pulled after six months. But the project owners kept applying for extensions and made changes to their plans. The last time an inspector from the city went to the site was in April 2007 to look at some plumbing, said England. The new owners are still using the original permit issued in 2003.

"It's taken longer than usual, but it's by no means unusual," said England of the project's length.

Mike Frazier, whose Southern California-based architecture firm has been with the project since its beginning, said there have been more than a few bumps on the road to completion.

Frazier said construction stopped in 2003, and "it's been sitting idle for that length of time." Since then the original owners lost control of the project through their bankruptcy and now a company named RAD owns the site. RAD would have gone ahead with building but the banking crisis stopped it in its tracks.

"Obviously, the banks have caused the delay in the funds that would be normally available," Frazier said.

Until funds are forthcoming, the only changes at 3015 Park Ave. will be the height of the weeds. On Wednesday they were knee-high.

What's wrong: An unfinished building has been sitting idle for almost six years.

Who is at fault: Park Avenue LLC, the original owner that went bankrupt, and the credit markets have stalled the project's current owners.

If you see something broken or in need of repair in your neighborhood, call the Sun-Star Tip List reporter, Jonah Owen Lamb, with your tips at (209) 385-2484 or e-mail jlamb@mercedsun-star.com.