In what could mark the beginning of a new chapter in local historic preservation, the city is considering giving financial help to a developer who has been trying for more than a year to turn the old Harriman Jones Clinic into condominiums.
The developer has told preservationists that if he is going to save the parts of the building they most cherish, the city has to put its money where its mouth is and help him save $250,000 on the project.
It is unclear how the city might do that, because one suggestion--that the city waive its fees for the project--appears to be legally impossible, according to the city attorney.
Nonetheless, the City Council this week asked its staff members to investigate ways of subsidizing the project. "I'm very encouraged by the action the City Council took," said Ruthann Lehrer, the city's preservation officer.
Lehrer said cities throughout the country assist preservation projects in various ways, whether through offering low-interest loans, waiving fees or by reducing property costs. But aside from a low-interest rehabilitation loan given to the owners of a downtown historic building, Lehrer said such financial help for preservation efforts has been virtually nonexistent in Long Beach.
"The only thing we've gotten from the city is a conference room and some sandwiches, and that is not enough," preservationist Doug Otto told the council at its regular meeting Tuesday.
The owners and developers of the former medical clinic on Cherry Avenue have been engaged in protracted talks with preservationists, and several plans to save the building have come and gone.
Most recently, the developer, Terry/Nikols Development Co., has agreed to save a living room, where fathers waited as their children were born in nearby delivery rooms. In exchange, preservationists and community activists have withdrawn opposition to adding another 15 feet to the clinic's height and to demolishing the clinic's facade on Broadway. The Cherry Avenue side of the 1930 Italian Revival building would be preserved.
Nikols' executives have said that saving the living room dramatically increases the company's construction costs, making it necessary to cut expenses elsewhere if the project is to remain profitable enough to pursue.
City staff members will examine the developer's cost figures to confirm that the project needs $250,000 to succeed. The staff will also look for ways to offer financial help to the developer.