With three city properties standing vacant, some for years, the Oakdale City Council decided to resolve their statuses, one of which consisted of having a building on one of the properties demolished despite a proposal by a local business person to use it to expand its existing services.
Last October, the city council initiated a request for proposals that provided all interested parties the opportunity to submit a proposal that described their plans for identified city owned buildings, one of which was at 142 S. Second Ave., adjacent to the Community Center.
Kamma Robinson and Greg Cobb, the owners of Plaza 131 at 131 S. Second Ave., presented a proposal stating they would like to use the building as an extension of their existing business (clothing boutique and cosmetology services).
The plan, which had additional employees stationed at the building, stated the business addition could add a minimum of six additional business licenses for the city.
As part of their proposal, Plaza 131 would give the city a deposit of $1,000 to be placed in an escrow account as well as make some major repairs to the building in the estimated amount of $65,000. The second year of the agreement, the city would receive $300 per month as part of a lease and an additional $9,000 into the escrow account to complete the sale of the building to Plaza 131 from the City of Oakdale including paying the closing costs and transfer fees.
“In essence, Plaza 131 would rehabilitate the building and purchase the building and land from the City of Oakdale for $10,000,” said Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer.
Whitemyer added that while he appreciated the Plaza 131 proposal, after further assessing the activities at the Gene Bianchi Community Center and the current lack of parking in the community center parking lot, he believed it would not be in the city’s best interest to pursue this proposal.
“What we factored into this is we will exacerbate a (parking) problem that already existed,” Whitemyer said.
He told the council that the property and building were originally purchased to be converted into additional parking for the Community Center. Staff has observed the parking lot at the Community Center over the last several months and the parking lot is already extremely busy.
Whitemyer also added that there was plenty of other areas available downtown for expansion for Plaza 131.
“We aren’t lacking for downtown office space,” Whitemyer said.
Robinson asked the council to consider her request, pointing out that prior to opening up, the homeless problem at the area was a big problem and since she’s opened up, the transients have migrated elsewhere.
“This will be an extension of the services I currently offer,” Robinson said. “If I leave (to another downtown location), it will be back to where it was.”
Robinson also said Whitemyer was contradicting himself from his budget presentation that said the city wanted to seek out new businesses.
All agreed the building up for discussion was becoming a nuisance currently with homeless from nearby William Meyer Park.
Councilman Tom Dunlop backed the city manager, stating that the plan for the community center when it was originally built was to have the building knocked down for parking and a clear path to the park.
Councilwoman Cherilyn Bairos, who stated she used the services offered at Plaza 131, countered Dunlop stating she felt the agreement would spruce up the area and be a great addition.
Mayor Pat Paul also felt there were other options since there was nothing immediate planned and there was still another building that the city didn’t own next to the building.
Cobb addressed the council and said the other privately owned building was also dilapidated and was basically used as storage. Due to both buildings’ condition, they were becoming an annoyance, costing the police time and money, and that he was “running off” transients daily.
“What we’ve seen is the more activity you have down there … it pushes out the other element,” Cobb said. “The longer it sets, it’s still blight.”
Dunlop complimented Cobb and Robinson for their efforts but affirmed the city should go with its original plan.
“We should have torn it down when we bought it,” Dunlop said. “Once we put someone in there, it will make it more difficult to do it later.”
When the matter was put to a vote it passed 3-2 with Paul and Bairos voting no.
In other properties on the agenda, Whitemyer proposed that the city-owned church on the corner of East E Street and North Third Avenue would have the church building sold for one dollar with the building being moved while the city keeps the land for a future use.
There was no time frame on the proposal or anyone interested at this time.
The city also entered into an agreement for the building at 250 E. “E” St., with ASTRO, Animal Shelter To Riverbank and Oakdale, to turn the building into a thrift shop where proceeds from the shop would be used to build and operate a new, private, no kill animal shelter that will serve Oakdale and Riverbank.
ASTRO would lease the building for three to five years at the annual rate of one-dollar and agreed to pay for all utilities and make needed improvements to the building.
Scott Hicks of the ASTRO board said the shop would be an upscale “homeward bound boutique” with home furnishings and decorations.
“It won’t be anything that didn’t sell at your garage sale,” Hicks said.
The council approved both the items unanimously.