Former mechanic shop

Repair work is underway at this commercial property at 407 Dr. Fermin Calderon Blvd. The dilapidated former mechanic’s shop was under review for demolition by the city building standards commission, but a prospective new owner stepped in and said he wishes to repair and rejuvenate the building.

A dilapidated former mechanic’s shop on a south Del Rio thoroughfare may soon get a new lease on life.

Members of the Del Rio Building Standards Commission discussed the fate of a run-down commercial structure at 407 Dr. Fermin Calderon Blvd. The commission members discussed the building during their April 29 meeting.

City Public Works Director Craig Cook, who also served as the city’s dangerous building official, told members of the Del Rio Building Standards Commission the owner of the property, identified as Estella Centeno, as well as her realtor, Al Padilla, and a potential buyer, Luis Arteaga, had joined the meeting via telephone.

“This is a commercial property, and it is the only commercial property we have put on the list for this year. Therefore, by state requirements, we had to do an asbestos survey, and it was conducted back in January. No asbestos was found,” Cook told the commission.

He told the commission he believed the building should be demolished, adding it meets three of the five criteria for a dangerous building.

“It is uninhabitable, it is damp and unsanitary, and it is open and insufficiently secured. This is a block building warehouse that used to be a mechanic’s garage, so it’s got two big swinging doors. They’ve come off the hinges, and they’re in a heap out in front of the building. As I said, it’s on Dr. Fermin Calderon Boulevard, a very busy, popular thoroughfare of the city, and it’s wide open. Children, criminals, vagrants and animals can easily get in there and be unsafe,” Cook said.

He noted the building has never had water or sewer service, and over the years, the owner has incurred 14 city liens totaling $2,594.03, mostly for lot cleaning.

“My opinion is, given the garage doors, the various openings in the roof, to repair the doors, to repair the roof, as well as the walls, to build a restroom, provide water and sewer to the building, to clean it up and make it inhabitable, that that is just kind of cost prohibitive, and therefore, removal, in my opinion, is the most economical option,” Cook said.

Cook reviewed a series of photos he took of the property, depicting the open entrances to the building.

After Cook’s presentation, Commissioner Jesus Salgado observed, “It’s a shame to let the building go, because it’s in a busy area, and it could be turned into an office building of some kind, but depending on the condition of the wood, the roof, they could redo that with aluminum or something that isn’t too heavy. The building seems to be solid enough from the pictures, but it has possibilities, but it all depends on the owner. Right now, everybody’s hurting because of the virus. A lot of people are out of work, and I think this could be rejuvenated, but it would take some work and a little bit of money or maybe a lot of money.”

Centeno told the commission she had spoken with Cook and “told him I needed a little bit more time.”

She said some of her family members recently passed away, and her husband is dealing with serious health issues.

“I need for you guys to have a little consideration,” Centeno said.

Commissioner Tomas Robles asked if Centeno had a buyer for the property.

Padilla confirmed there was a prospective buyer.

“We have a buyer that is willing to take on all of the responsibility of the building, and we just need a conformation from the seller that she agrees on the selling amount. The building certainly is in dire condition, but it is my understanding there can be some repairs that would bring the building back up to code, but it’s up to the owner right now what route she wants to take,” Padilla said.

Arteaga, the prospective buyer, told the commission he owned several day care centers in Del Rio. Arteaga said he started with one location, then was able to rehabilitate several other buildings into which he eventually expanded his business.

“These were old buildings, and we brought them back to life. It can be done. It takes a little bit of money, but it can be done,” Arteaga said.

He added he believed the city’s concerns about the building could be mitigated.

“By boarding the building up as soon as possible, we can avoid having any more issues,” he said.

Arteaga said in his opinion the framing of the building and its roof “look good.”

“My intentions are, if buying of this building works out, to fix that building ASAP. I would try and get permits as soon as possible,” he told the commission, adding he had thought about “a shop” as the future use for the building.

“The structure is not beyond repair. We don’t have to knock this building down, whether I buy it or not, I don’t believe this building has to be knocked down. Someone with a little money can get in there and fix it and bring it back to life. I think it will add a lot to the city, not to mention on the lot next to it, I would also plan to build another office or warehouse-type building and bring that area back where I think it should be,” Arteaga said.

Robles asked Centeno how much time she thought she would need to decide what she wanted to do with the building. He also asked her if she had signed a contract to sell the building, and she said she had not, but added, “I’m about to.”

When Robles asked Cook for suggestions, Cook said he recommended the commission order that the building be secured before June 8.

“Whether Mr. Arteaga does that work or not, I don’t much care, but if she were directed to secure the building within the 40 days, by June 8, then we could monitor it over the summer, and if Mr. Arteaga buys it and starts to renovate, we will know that through the development services division, and the city can monitor progress,” Cook said.

Padilla said he and Arteaga have made an offer and are only waiting on Centeno to make her decision.

Cook suggested a motion that Centeno be ordered to secure the building no later than June 8 and the commission will reconsider action on the building at a future meeting.

Robles made the motion, with Commission Chair Isidro Valdez Fernandez giving the second. All three of the commissioners voted in favor of the motion.

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