Ruth McGowan’s Brewpub, which has supplied the small city of Cloverdale with house-made beer since 2002, was the lone restaurant to show formal interest in the space before Tracy’s Jan. 26 deadline, according to Director of Development and Engineering Andrew Malik.
Malik told me that the old market on the northwest corner of Central Avenue and Eighth Street is a perfect fit for a brewery.
“What we found … was that the 11,000 square feet that the Westside Market is,” he said, “is kind of a sweet spot for breweries-slash-restaurants.”
It’s a sweet spot, period.
As they say in real estate, location is king. And the parcel is just to the north of the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts, the jewel of downtown.
Unfortunately, if McGowan’s moves in, it will force out the E Gallery, which takes up the non-Westside part of the parcel.
E Gallery, under Jack Elliott and now the Tracy Performing Arts Foundation, has been home to quality community theater, a true complement to the Grand next door. (Here’s hoping it finds a home that’s not too far away from what’s developing into a real artistic treasure.)
Malik warned, however, that a deal with McGowan’s is far from complete. He said staff is working to begin negotiations if the City Council approves at its March 6 meeting.
“We’re very excited about it,” he said.
The city bought the building in 2011, hoping to turn the convenience store there into a higher-profile attraction. The purchase was one of the last gasps of the city’s redevelopment agency, before the California Legislature washed it from the face of the urban renewal landscape.
So far, things have gone according to plan. But the city’s got to tread carefully.
Using public money to buy a space and turn it over to a private owner needs to be done with wisdom. Neighboring cities, such as Stockton, have seen similar processes go horribly awry, creating long-lasting animosity toward their downtowns and alienating business owners who have to compete with the Johnny-come-latelies.
But at least this gives momentum to a neighborhood in need of forward traction. Some parts of downtown seem mired to the waist.
Take the building on the northwest corner of Central Avenue and 10th Street.
It was most recently the site of Helm’s Ale House, an outfit that proved good beer and good food can survive in the city’s historic heart. It’s too bad that the building crumbled around the up-and-coming business, forcing the city to declare the structure a hazard.
More than three months later, fences still ward away pedestrians, making downtown’s central intersection look a little too much like Detroit.
(A quick aside, ale house owner Dave Helm says he’s still looking for a place to restart his pub, though he said he wasn’t approached by the city regarding the Westside Market. Malik said Helm didn’t submit a letter of interest.)
Building owner Denise Hembree said this week that she’s “in a holding pattern” regarding repairs. While there’s no timeline, Hembree said she wants to “get tenants in there as soon as the work is completed.”
But code enforcement officer Jim Decker said the city hasn’t heard from Hembree the past couple weeks. He said the city needs to see plans to get the place permanently stabilized so the fences can be removed — or to have it repaired or razed.
“We’re going to have to move forward, because the thing just can’t sit like that forever,” Decker told me Wednesday. “It’s a public nuisance at this point in time.”
I’m no structural engineer, but having seen a preliminary report regarding the building’s stability, my personal money is on demolition as the most feasible option.
Regardless of which option Hembree chooses, the corner is in dire want of improvement. A fenced-off building just makes a bad backdrop for the spring Wine Stroll or fall Bean Festival, especially when so much work is going into other parts of the downtown.
Though behind schedule, repair work continues in the former JC Penney building on 10th and B streets, and the Sixth Street Plaza is on the verge of an on-time completion.
Taken with the possible move-in of McGowan’s, it’s a sign that downtown is finding stronger footing, despite some slips along the way.
• Second Thoughts is a personal opinion column by Editor Jon Mendelson. Share your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.