Some downtown work under budget

City administrators say they expect work on three publicly-owned downtown properties to cost less than expected and hope to recoup some of taxpayers’ investment in the rehabilitation effort when the properties come up for sale.

The properties are two Grant Avenue buildings and the Scott Theater. One of the Grant Avenue properties — the former Odessa Home Furniture store at 417 N. Grant Ave. — has already been torn down. The same fate awaits the theater, while the final property, the former Head Start building at 418 N. Grant Ave., is being renovated to ease development for a future buyer.

Interim City Manager Michael Marrero said the city will soon issue requests for proposals in hopes of greater interest than a similar effort yielded months ago. Last year, the city requested proposals on city-owned properties including the two Grant Avenue buildings but got no responses.

“We’ve kind of thought all along that with the city’s leadership in not only acquiring the properties but also in some cases removing or rehabbing the properties — that would generate more interest for us,” Marrero said.

This time, Marrero said several developers have already expressed interest in the Grant Avenue properties, where they may open businesses such as restaurants or bars. Meanwhile, a prospect interested in the theater is no longer considering buying that property.

The city’s work on all three buildings may come in under budget, which totaled about $600,000 when the Odessa City Council approved the projects last year, city officials say.

Rehabilitating the Head Start building had been projected to cost $150,000, but workers discovered red brick walls and a wood-deck ceiling that the city determined developers would want to keep. Deciding not to build new walls or ceilings helped lower the estimated cost of that ongoing project to about $37,000.

The demolition of the Odessa Home Furniture building, between The Rose Building and Jim’s Tall and Big Men’s Shop, cost nearly $7,000 less than expected.

The city bought 417 N. Grant Ave., for $85,000 in 2016 from the previous owners who were in bankruptcy. City staff suggested selling the property for about $134,000.

The city bought 418 N. Grant Ave., in September for $111,000. The targeted sale price is about $147,000.

Plans call for demolition of the Scott Theater at 700 N. Texas Ave., to begin by the end of the month and wrap up in May. That project is estimated to cost $365,000, which city officials hope to recoup with the sale of the property.

The theater opened in 1959 and operated until the early 1980s, but it fell into major disrepair before the city acquired it through tax foreclosure in 2015.

The roof collapsed, thousands of birds made the building their home and several feet of standing water pooled near the stage. But because the building is unsound, the city may save tens of thousands of dollars by not being required to abate the building of asbestos to the same degree otherwise required.

City officials plan to preserve the theater’s sign.

Meanwhile, construction continues on a downtown hotel and convention center supported by a multi-million dollar public investment. That project, which includes a renovation of the Ector Theatre, is expected to open in early 2019.

The city owns the dilapidated Scott Theater and estimates it would cost about $365,000 to demolish the building.

BY MARK STERKEL
msterkel@oaoa.com