November 1, 2013

It’s curtains for Riverbank’s Del Rio Theater

Friday marked another milestone in the unfolding tragedy of Riverbank’s Del Rio Theater.

Friday marked another milestone in the unfolding tragedy of Riverbank’s Del Rio Theater.

In 2006, the city, through its redevelopment agency, bought the 1940s-era theater with grand hopes of restoring it as a downtown arts hub. The price was $1.7 million, which looked high then and today is a really painful memory. We’ve documented the troubles through the years, but let’s sum it up by saying it’s been a horror story.

When the state did away with redevelopment agencies in 2012, most cities and counties assumed the role of successor agencies over the property and the bond debt. But not Riverbank. City leaders recognized that there was so much debt and so little value associated with their redevelopment program that they walked away.

By last summer, the Designated Local Authority that oversees the Del Rio, an adjoining parking lot and another parcel recognized the troubles and went into technical default on the bond payments. Next required step: Prepare a long-term management plan for the properties. On Friday, the plan was OK’d by the next level in the process, the Oversight Board for the former Riverbank Redevelopment Agency. That was a 6-0 vote.

The recommendation: Dispose of the Del Rio. The problem: Probably no one will want it. The real estate experts involved in putting together the plan say there’s no way to appraise it because there are no comparable properties it has sold. But because the building is deficient in almost every regard and has asbestos on top of it, it is highly unlikely anyone would want to purchase it. The estimated cost of razing the Del Rio is $88,000, which basically gives the property a negative value.

The long-range plan now goes to the Department of Finance. If it approves the proposal, the issue comes back to the locals. They’re expected to seek a commercial broker to handle the sale, meaning that the Del Rio likely will remain in its comatose condition – vacant and uninhabitable – through the first half of 2014.

Nonetheless, it’s pretty clear how the story will end – with the demise of its main character, the Del Rio Theater. Saving and restoring it was an appealing vision, but it can’t happen when the structure’s only value is sentimental.

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