August Sebastiani, president of The Other Guys wine and spirits company, said Wednesday he is excitedly awaiting a signed contract for the sale of the old firehouse building at 32 Patten St., after his bid for the property was accepted by the city on June 23. The sale amount was $1.65 million.
The building has been on the auction block, figuratively or literally, since 2008.
Originally built as a combined police and fire station in 1948, after both departments outgrew their allotted quadrants at City Hall, the Patten Street building was pressed into service to house city operations after the bottom floor of City Hall caught fire on a hot August night in 1980.
In 1987, city staff returned to Patten Street while seismic retrofitting was done on City Hall under the dictates of state law, and in 2007, the police department moved back in temporarily while police offices on First Street West were undergoing a floor-to-roof renovation.
The building has about 9,700 square feet of usable space on a .42-acre lot. Zoned for mixed use, there are no restrictions on what happens on the site unless the existing building is razed. Were that to happen, requirements for affordable housing would kick in.
The city sold the property to its redevelopment agency, but ownership went into limbo when the state disbanded those agencies in 2011.
According to state Department of Finance rules, the property had to be sold as soon as possible, for the highest use and the most money, most of which would end up in state pockets, but for about the 12 percent interest the city was allowed to retain in the site.
Prior to the dissolution of redevelopment agencies, the city had been in negotiations with Foothill Partners, a Sacramento-area development company that held a series of meetings in the building so that interested parties – notably including Patten Street neighbors – could respond to and offer advice on possible plans for the site. Neighbors expressed the most concern about parking impacts on adjacent streets from retail uses like restaurants and stores.
At one point, Peet’s Coffee expressed interest in at least some space on the property, but backed off in part because of parking and neighborhood issues. They subsequently opened a shop nearby on Broadway.
Foothill Partners was not among the four companies submitting bids for the property. The other three were Caymus Capital, Mann Property Company and Frank de Michele.
While the city was negotiating the sale prior to redevelopment dissolution, much discussion went into an appropriate “gateway” use that would present an appealing invitation to arriving visitors, while simultaneously luring shoppers down Broadway from the Plaza. Ideas raised then included creation of a pocket park, perhaps with a water feature, where pedestrians could sit and relax.
That element probably won’t figure into Sebastiani’s plans for the property, at least not any time soon, but he said this week that he wants to move in, “draw a breath and sit with it” for a while before beginning to discuss future uses. Current TOG offices are at 35 Maple St., a few blocks away.