On Thursday, the owner of the building at the corner of Central Avenue and 10th Street, Denise Hembree, and her legal team are scheduled to meet with city officials. They are set to work out what would be required to get the building up to code so it can be reoccupied.
Earlier this week, Hembree’s attorney filed an appeal to overrule the city engineers’ finding that the building is unsafe to occupy.
The building was vacated in late October 2011 when members of the city code enforcement team closed the business housed there, Helm’s Ale House, citing structural problems.
Code enforcement officers said six trusses above a former Mexican market, which shared a roof with the restaurant, were in disrepair.
The building was deemed unsafe, and a chain link fence was erected around it, as head code enforcement official Ana Contreras feared it could collapse, especially the structure’s southern wall.
Hembree said she has tried to resolve the problem, but claimed city officials have been unreasonable.
“Code enforcement people are out of control and anxious to exert their authority,” Hembree said. “I’m going to repair it. I’ve been trying to work with the city. They haven’t been cooperative. They seem to want to tear it down.”
Hembree said she has met with engineers. She admitted that they did find cracked trusses, and said repairs would range between $150,000 and $300,000.
Hembree said the city is requiring her to undergo the most expensive process, though she can’t afford it.
According to Ana Contreras, the building owner’s engineer and the city engineer have a difference of opinion. Contreras said it is the city’s goal to get the building in compliance as soon as possible, especially before downtown events such as the wine stroll and Tracy Dry Bean Festival.
“With the wine stroll coming up, we would like to see that area safe,” Contreras said. “We would like the engineers to come together to come to a mutual decision as to how dangerous that (southern) wall is. Our goal is to make that building safe again.”
Downtown merchants located near the building in question said they’re tired of the eyesore.
“Fix it,” said one business owner, who asked not to be identified. “That’s what people see. What kind of impression is that? Having an empty building is not a good thing.”
Hair Illusions owner, Joe Cisneroz said, “Its sad Helm’s isn’t there. It hurts the downtown image. Why isn’t the (Tracy City Center Association) doing something about this big eyesore out here?”
TCCA Manager Jan Couturier said there isn’t much the alliance of downtown merchants and property owners can do to resolve the matter.
“Yes, it’s important,” Couturier said. “It’s an important corner. Nobody wants that corner the way it is. Nobody is happy about it, but it has to run its course. It’s certainly on our list of things to keep an eye on.”
Hembree said she has asked the city to allow her to remove the fence after she initiated some repairs to the building, but she said city officials told her their requirements have not been met.
“My goal is to always repair the building,” Hembree said. “A local man and his family want to put a restaurant there. I may lose them if I don’t get the building done on time. Once construction starts, it should be about six weeks.”