SECOND THOUGHTS: City sees pub replacing market
by Jon Mendelson/Tracy Press
Feb 24, 2012 | 12706 views | 14 14 comments | 854 854 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The city of Tracy appears on the brink of settling on a tenant for the old Westside Market and injecting new energy into the downtown scene.

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 jmendelson@tracypress.com.
Comments
(14)
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tommybahama
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March 03, 2012
If the City of Tracy is so broke they have to ask their employees to take pay reductions, then why is the same City investing in commercial real estate?

Macpup
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March 01, 2012
Where is the parking??? Why is the City involved in another real estate deal??? We are still putting money in the Grand Theater to keep it afloat. I'm hoping in the next election we get some candidates for City Council with common sense and stop spending tax payer dollars like it's monopoly money.
americangraffitti
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March 01, 2012
Actually, it was just what the doctor ordered, Macpup.

I just dreaded parking there when visiting the Grand.

Little nicer now.

mellymotown
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February 29, 2012
I think it would have been great to have Helm's in the old Westside Market space. Granted it means taking away the E Gallary, which has been a great compliment to The Grand Theatre.

I do have to pont out a flaw in the quote, "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."

The Great Plate Bar and Grill has held reign at 714 Central Avenue for almost 14 years. Love it or hate it, that's your choice. Patrons have chosen to frequent this long standing establishment enough to keep it going. We have seen it go through good times and bad, but it's still here.

I would say it more accurately fits the bill of survival.

I truly hope for more dining establishments in the downtown area. Enticing more business to the area is good for downtown and the City of Tracy.

Strwbrries
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March 06, 2012
I dont believe the omission was a mistake. The Great Plate Bar and Grill is hardly a place to go for "good" food.

My husband and I find ourselves spending our weekends and money in downtown Livermore or downtown Pleasanton...I sincerely hope that Tracy brings better quality establishments to our downtown.
againstallodds
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February 28, 2012
Yeeeeehaaaaaaaaaw! Another saloon in town. More intoxicated patrons who will later be driving home. Ok, just being sarcastic, but doesn't the city think we have enough establishments in this town selling alcohol? Oh well, it'll be close to the transit station where the patrons will be able to hop aboard the high speed rail. What? The high speed rail is not a done deal? You mean we can't run the drunks out of town on a rail? Guess Greyhound will have to do.
badattitude49
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February 29, 2012
againstallodds,

What would you suggest for that spot? Just askin'
LuckyInTracyNot
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February 26, 2012
Malik told me that the old market on the northwest corner of Central Avenue and Eighth Street is a perfect fit for a brewery.

DID YOU MEAN

SOUTH WEST CORNER? HELLO???
Xandercrossfade
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February 25, 2012
hile everyone is entitled to your opinion, for that is what makes this country great,it takes a real man/woman, to deface someone on the internet. The E company not only provided the good people of Tracy, with a place to see unique and gifted individuals, put their heart and souls into their desired craft. It also provided a home for teens, who might have a hard time dealing with society, and judgmental eyes, because he/she was different.

To even air its dirty laundry for all to see, is making the choice, to deface all the hard work the gifted men and women of the E company have placed into that space.I have no doubts in my mind that there were not flaws, but that is what makes the creative process so wonderful.

I hope that whomever takes over the building truly can appreciate the rich culture that it brought to Tracy, even if only for the year it had existed. I also hope, that whatever may take its place, will fill many a lives with joy.

So, it is with love in my heart and not the hate that you showed, that I wish you a wonderful life.

-Larry Christopher Cody Murphy, proud member of E Company
behonestguys
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February 24, 2012
So, if the City owns the space that Mr. Elliott was using, and now it's being used by someone else, is anyone paying rent for the space, or is this another freebie compliments of us schmucks, er, I mean taxpayers of Tracy?
JRElliott
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February 24, 2012
Yes, "Behonestguys" we paid rent. Fair market value rent. The City did not own the building when we leased it and has only owned it for a few months. Plus we invested several thousands of dollars in up grades to the building to make it safe for hundreds of your fellow taxpayers to enjoy.
behonestguys
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February 24, 2012
So Mr. Elliott, by your response, are you saying that you paid rent to the former owner of the building AND you have been paying the rent to the current owner, the City, staying current?
JRElliott
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February 24, 2012
Thanks for the kind words. In September of 2010 I took over the building on a hope and a prayer that Tracy would support our local Troupe of actors. The building has stood empty for years and every time I went to the Grand I kept saying: "Someone should rent this space. Finally, I did.

We did everything with scrap wood, duck tape and wire. But in the end we had a place to practice our craft. Playwrights got to hear their original plays spoken aloud for the very first time. Actors got to do edgier shows to broaden their portfolios. We did puppet shows, poetry readings and Improv. We even took a show to China!

What we did would have been to costly to do in the Grand. However, that said, The Grand and most especially William and Jeff were great neighbors to have. They really supported us in those critical early days.

Now 15 shows later, it was time for something new in my life. And as they say in Theatre - It was a great run! The E Gallery is now the Tracy Performing Arts' Playhouse. I hope the community helps them to find a new home. They are a tremendous bunch of loving and caring people - and I know that they have more stories to tell and shows to put on.- Jack
Xandercrossfade
|
February 25, 2012
While everyone is entitled to your opinion, for that is what makes this country great,it takes a real man/woman, to deface someone on the internet. The E company not only provided the good people of Tracy, with a place to see unique and gifted individuals, put their heart and souls into their desired craft. It also provided a home for teens, who might have a hard time dealing with society, and judgmental eyes, because he/she was different.

To even air its dirty laundry for all to see, is making the choice, to deface all the hard work the gifted men and women of the E company have placed into that space.I have no doubts in my mind that there were not flaws, but that is what makes the creative process so wonderful.

I hope that whomever takes over the building truly can appreciate the rich culture that it brought to Tracy, even if only for the year it had existed. I also hope, that whatever may take its place, will fill many a lives with joy.

So, it is with love in my heart and not the hate that you showed, that I wish you a wonderful life.

-Larry Christopher Cody Murphy, proud member of E Company


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