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What's Your Vision for El Pueblo?

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, November 01, 2010, at 06:23PM
Pico House Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Pico House is one of four structures currently up for bid at the El Pueblo Historical Monument.

If you had the chance to reactivate the north end of Olvera Street, what would you do with it?

The 1869 Pico House headlines a group of four buildings at the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument that is currently up for bid, ready to go to the person who comes up with the best plan to bring the structures back to life.

Also included are the 1870 Merced Theater, the 1858 Masonic Hall and the 1900 Hellman-Quon building. Combined, the buildings contain approximately 35,000 square feet of space. All but the Hellman-Quon building can be connected, creating the potential for an operator to join more than 90 percent of that space.

The Request for Proposals issued last month awards two-thirds of its points points for rent payments and capital improvements to the structures, which have stood empty for decades. It gives flexibility in what uses can be proposed to go inside, noting that bidders can “present an adaptive approach that will allow for efficient contemporary uses while preserving and restoring certain historical features of the properties.”

That’s not to say that each structure doesn’t have quite the laundry list of previous uses. The Pico House was built as a hotel, but the document notes that building has also been a “restaurant, bar, saloon, rooming house, store, billiards, apartment, café, barber shop and jeweler.”

When new, the Merced Theater was a saloon on the ground floor, a theater on the second floor and a residence on the third floor. It’s also been a “wholesale fruit and liquor business, dry goods store, lodging house, dance hall, club and hotel,” according to the city.

Along with Masonic meetings, the other uses of the lodge included “retail and clothing, lodging, restaurant, shoe repair, barber shop, pawn office, saloon and athletic hall.” The physical state of the buildings varies. The Masonic Hall has first floor fire damage, but the buildings are structurally sound.

Still, costs to bring the historic structures back to life are sure to be high even before factoring in rent payments. The El Pueblo monument has been under increased pressure to be fiscally self-sustained recently after years of unchanged rents, and the document cites recently signed leases in the complex of roughly $3.50 per square foot in asking proposers what they would offer to pay.

One source of revenue for El Pueblo has been filming, and the department is interested in seeing that continue even once the buildings are occupied. It says that approximately 45 days of filming generate it $300,000 and asks proposers how often they would let the activity take place.

And what do you get for your bid? The city is offering a ten year lease for the winning proposal, with two five-year options. Potential bidders will need to post a $30,000 proposal guarantee for each building that they are interested in, or a $100,000 guarantee for a bid on all four buildings. Bids are due November 24.

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