June 28, 2012 Demolition of Automotive Technology (at left) and Wanjon Auto Body (at right) with the former Community Center building in background at right.
Demolition of the former Wanjon Auto Body & Paint shop (24410 Main Street) and the former Automotive Technology building (22515 9th Street) was carried out the week of June 25, 2012, by C&R Demolition Industries Inc. of Rosemead, Calif., at a cost to the city of Santa Clarita of $21,500. (C&R's contract with the city also calls for the demolition and removal of the former Community Center building at 24406 Main Street, for an additional $16,000).
The city of Santa Clarita's redevelopment agency purchased the entire 1.7-acre block bounded by Main Street, Lyons Avenue, Railroad Avenue and 9th Street in November 2009 from its owners, Gary and Sandra Avery and Akki and Marcia Frimmerman (doing business as AF Main LLC) for $6,216,000 using $5,512,655 in redevelopment housing funds and $703,345 in developer fees. The so-called "Avery Block" included Wanjon (built year unknown), Automotive Technology (built 1968), the 22406 building (built 1968, used as the Community Center from 1994 to January 2006 and used in 2012 as the city's Old Town Newhall Library construction office), and Tony Inderbitzen's Insurance Auto Collision Center at 22520 Lyons Avenue (built 1946).
The Santa Clarita Redevelopment Agency acquired the property with the intent of redeveloping it under the agency's 2005 Downtown Newhall Specific Plan. According to city documents, "The redevelopment of this block of land serves as a catalyst for public and private partnerships and will strengthen the Agency's goal of creating an arts and entertainment district in this area. Possible redevelopment opportunities being explored include a mixed use project which may entail a theater, an art show room, retail space, and residential units."
With the property sale, the three existing tenants Wanjon, Automotive Technology and Collision Auto had a new landlord: the Redevelopment Agency. On March 8, 2011 the City Council, in its capacity as the Redevelopment Agency board, authorized a payment of $275,338 to Cesar Garcia dba Wanjon Autobody Inc., and $255,000 to Mike Hagerty dba Automotive Technology, using redevelopment non-housing funds, in exchange for their agreement to vacate their respective leasehold properties no later than April 1, 2011. A similar offer was extended to Collision Auto, but Inderbitzen excercised an option to renew his lease for five years, to 2015.
While Santa Clarita was taking these steps to implement its redevelopment plan, the state Legislature was threatening the wholesale elimination of California's redevelopment agencies. At a special meeting March 16, 2011, just one week after authorizing payment to the tenants, Santa Clarita's Redevelopment Agency transfered ownership of the Avery block to the city. At the same time, the agency also transfered its Old Town Newhall Library property, together with $17,133,351.73 in redevelopment funds needed for the library's completion.
The state indeed eliminated redevelopment agencies, including Santa Clarita's, during the 2011-2012 fiscal year, and the city was left with three derelict properties in the Avery block. Wanjon had shut down, Automotive Technology moved to a different location on Main Street, and the city wouldn't need a library construction office much longer. On May 18, 2012, the City Council authorized the demolition of the three properties first Wanjon and Automotive Technology, then the construction office and it awarded the contract to the lowest responsible bidder, C&R Demolition. According to the city staff report, "The demolition will remove dilapidated and blighted structures on the City-owned property and prepare the area for future redevelopment. With the elimination of redevelopment agencies throughout the state of California, cities are now tasked with continuing the economic growth and vitality of communities that formerly relied on redevelopment to revitalize struggling areas. While the future development of this site is unknown at this time, it is at a critical intersection that serves as a gateway to Old Town Newhall and is directly adjacent to the new Old Town Newhall Library. In an effort to continue the renaissance of Old Town Newhall, it is in the City's best interest to move forward with the demolition of these vacant structures to further eliminate blighting conditions in Old Town Newhall."
TV1201: 9600 dpi jpeg from digital image by Austin Dave | Online image only