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Oxnard to Consider Sale of Heritage Square Sites

The City Council is to decide whether to let a businessman buy two historic buildings for thousands less than the city spent on repairs.

August 26, 2003|Sandra Murillo | Times Staff Writer

The Oxnard City Council tonight will consider selling two Heritage Square properties for a total of $685,000, after spending nearly $900,000 to fix up one of the historic buildings.

But the sales price isn't as low as it sounds, city officials said, since the properties are commercial, and many of the long-term benefits of the sale to local businessman Al Barkley will outweigh the financial loss.

The city's Community Development Commission has spent more than $5 million related to the purchase and renovation of properties in Heritage Square, a group of historical buildings downtown that are mostly used for small office space.

Officials were not able to provide costs associated with buying, relocating and refurbishing Petit House, but said $899,971 was spent on the 4,100-square-foot Perkins property alone.

City officials said the sales price is at par with recent appraisal values. According to city documents, the Perkins House, at 721 South A St., is valued at $326,000 and the Petit House, at 730 South B St., is valued at $349,000. They point out that Barkley is paying $10,000 more for the Petit House and the exact appraisal value of the Perkins property.

Because the properties are commercial, values are determined by a number of factors, including available rental space and maintenance costs.

"It's got all these big halls and spaces that don't produce any income," said Jim Ludwig, a local broker who has handled bids for the city. "They're very hard to sell in a typical commercial way. They're like museum pieces."

Officials said the sale of the vacant properties will benefit the city in a number of ways, including generating additional property tax revenue, creating new jobs and encouraging more business activity downtown.

"Redevelopment is really about reinvestment," said Brian Pendleton, the city's redevelopment services manager. "As it relates to breaking even or even making a profit, that was not a primary consideration."

More important was to find a buyer who was willing to invest his or her own money in making improvements in keeping with the city's vision for Heritage Square, he said.

Barkley, who owns an insurance firm near Heritage Square, is chairman of the Oxnard Downtown Partnership, an improvement district formed in 2001. City officials have denied giving Barkley any breaks.

"If somebody had offered us $1 million and it was the appropriate use, we would've done it in a second," said Curtis Cannon, the city's community development director.

The Community Development Commission plans to use the money from sale to purchase a building for its downtown theater project, Pendleton said.

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