The loser in the win-win deal

Although in today’s column I refer to the city’s deal with Assured Guaranty as a win-win deal, there is in fact a loser: the historic City Hall at 425 N. El Dorado St. 
Few yet realize the deal to adjust the city’s $169.4 million to Assured cements the city’s unfortuante decision to move lock, stock and barrel out of the old City Hall and into the 8-story building at 400 E. Main St.
The deal makes fiscal sense from several angles. One is escaping the cost of the huge amount of defferred maintenance on old City Hall. The roof is bad, the HVAC system is bad and the buidling does not meet accessibility standards.
But what makes fiscal sense also indicts city leaders for the building’s neglect. They were entrusted with a historic and architectural gem. Whether they ran it down out of indifference or their headlong dive into debt which left them penniless does not matter. They ran it down. 
Nor does the city intend to leave some city offices open in the building to keep the building alive. Operating two buildings would thwart the economy they seek by moving into 400 Main.  
But repurposing that building to a new tenant will be problematic. As will be funding the necessary fixes.
Yet if Stockton government is going to move out of that building it is Stockton government’s responsibility not to abandon it to a death cycle and eventual demolition. Leaders must commit to finding a tenant and to a level of restoration or at least preservation. They must  keep the building from becoming another sorry story of lost community treasures such as, notoriously, the majestic 1898 county courthouse.

As it stands, the building is halfway down the road to demolition by neglect. The city should not allow it to go further.

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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