The property that formerly housed the downtown City Market was sold by the Dillon Real Estate Company, on behalf of the Kroger Company, last Friday to the Pierce Mangurian Trust for $500,000, according to documents filed at the Archuleta County Clerk and Recorder’s office.
Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation Chairperson Muriel Eason, who was asked to comment on the sale, subsequently sent an e-mail to the CDC’s board of advisors falsely claiming SUN staff had told her that the building would be used as office space for the Archuleta County courts.
Her misrepresentation was based on comments made to SUN staff by town planner James Dickhoff, who stressed that he had not been in contact with the new owner but had only talked to his representative. Dickhoff told SUN staff his impression was that the new owner bought it as an investment property and planned on fixing it up and renting it out.
“I know there are no plans for demolition,” the planner stressed.
Dickhoff pointed out that Archuleta County is having trouble providing enough court space and that officials had talked about moving some of their offices, but he couldn’t speculate as to whether there had been any contact between the new owner and anyone from the county.
Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners chairman Clifford Lucero confirmed, “The fact of the matter is, our space is limited and we have had to share our meeting room with the courts, so we are looking for space, but we have not committed to anything and everything is still on the table. We just asked Jesse (county administrator Jesse Smith) to come up with some ideas and that was one of his ideas to look at, but we have had nothing concrete at all.”
Harold Kelley, the real estate agent who represented the new owner and to whom Dickhoff said he had spoken, did not return phone calls or provide more information about the buyer to SUN staff by Wednesday’s deadline. Neither did Mike Heraty, owner of the real estate company at which Kelley works.
Eason’s involvement with the issue extends from the CDC’s October 2012 meeting, during which Ken Vickerstaff announced he was in final negotiations with representatives of City Market to facilitate donation of the abandoned downtown building to the CDC.
Although Vickerstaff warned at the time it wasn’t a done deal until the proverbial key was in the hand, he spoke optimistically about the benefit the deal would have had for the community.
Rich Lindblad, who was then the director of the CDC, spoke of his plans to turn the facility into a culinary arts institute and a business incubator to help entrepreneurs get started with their enterprises.
In recent months, Eason has expressed less and less optimism that the facility would be donated to the CDC.
What will happen with the building is unknown at present, as are particulars concerning the sale, including whether deed restrictions were part of the contract. Efforts to reach Pierce Mangurian before the Wednesday deadline were unsuccessful.
Town officials intend to be in contact, however, with concrete proposals in hand.
“We are going to be working with the new owner,” Dickhoff assured, “on getting a pedestrian way along the front of the property near the highway.”
In the past, Dickhoff has presented the idea to town council of obtaining an easement across that property to connect the downtown sidewalk system with the new lighted intersection at 8th Street and U.S. 160. As it stands now, there is no sidewalk along that block, just a sharp embankment next to the driving lane.
“We are going to be asking for an easement,” Dickhoff explained, “as a way to mitigate assessing the new property owner for the cost of the trail. We are going to ask for that connection on the pavement up here.” Dickhoff pointed to a Google satellite image of the old City Market parking lot. “So we will coordinate the restriping of the parking lot. All they will lose is maybe six spaces, and we’ll just move everything twelve feet to the south. We’ll provide some concrete parking blocks so cars can’t get into that pedestrian zone.”
Dickhoff explained this would be a temporary solution to provide a safe connection for pedestrians, and added that the town has applied for a grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation and, if it is awarded, the town would be able to build a sidewalk in that area.
In separate transactions, Kroger has sold the property that Lucero Tire Company occupies directly behind the old City Market building. The private residence on 7th Street was also sold separately. The east end of the Pagosa Plaza complex, where Citizens Bank and Archuleta Housing offices are currently located, is a separate property and was not part of this transaction.
Dickhoff also pointed out that the building between Sonoco and Car Quest on San Juan Street, which has stood vacant for quite a while, is now occupied by Making Things New, a furniture restoration business, and the two buildings across the street from there are in the process of being remodeled — one will become a pawn shop and the other will be a coffee shop.
In a separate interview, town manager David Mitchem gave his opinion of the City Market transaction. “I think it tells us something about the economy. It has turned around enough that we have investors interested in the real estate. That’s very encouraging. It’s a blessing for the community. Those vacant buildings send a message, but buildings that are full send a very different message, a positive message.”