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Controversy fading at Third and G, new building to come

By From page A1 | June 17, 2014

Out with the old and in with the new.

A pair of age-old, one-story downtown buildings — totaling 2,475 square feet — are moving toward their July demolition. The buildings are slated to be rebuilt as a single, two-story 4,974-square-foot commercial space ready for business in January.

The move is part of the city’s overall goal of infill and densification. But it wasn’t made in haste, as the city and property owner had concerns for the four retail and service tenants that occupied the building before the owner decided it was time to push forward with a facelift.

The building at 239 G St. is more than 100 years old, said property owner Anthony Ruebner, who was born in Davis and lives in Lafayatte. It doesn’t meet current earthquake safety standards.

“It’s been a bit of all hands on deck dealing with that building,” Ruebner said.

For years, 40 in fact, Ruebner’s family had been minority owners in 239 G St. For years, he said, the ownership either wouldn’t or couldn’t come to an agreement on whether and how to remodel the space, with the Ruebner family firmly in the camp of wanting to remodel.

That deadlock changed in 2014 when the other partners sold their stakes in the building to the Ruebners. First on the list was a remodel of the venerable Tibet Nepal space, Ruebner said. Yet all didn’t go as planned.

An architectural estimate proved surprising: “We quickly learned it was a 110-year old building.” The remodel would have to involve total demolition.

For the eventual investment to pencil out, Ruebner told the Davis planning commissioners that he needs a two-story building, with office space up top, and two to three retail spaces below.

“Because three sides are frontage, there will be a lot of glass,” Ruebner said.

An infill project, the city planning department recommended its approval by the Planning Commission in March, but supporters of the tenants of the building raised concerns at the meeting. While the commission’s job is to evaluate building plans and not think much about the economic prospects of commercial tenants, there was pointed  criticism of the design of the building and how well it “fit in” with the neighborhood.

“I’m absolutely shocked by this,” Commissioner Marilee Hanson said of the architect’s spare, modern design in March. “… I can’t believe something better than this can’t be proposed.”

Yet there also was support on the commission. Commissioner Cheryl Essex felt it was the right kind of design.

“It’s a very restrained modern design,” she said in March. “It’s not trying to make a statement all by itself.”

Ultimately the commission asked Ruebner to come back with a better presentation, including better representations of the color of the building.

Ruebner came back in April doing just that and won approval for the design, the last step in the approval process at the commission level. Other permits are needed for demolition and construction, said Mike Webb, community development and sustainability director, but those would be handled by city staff.

One key mark of goodwill Ruebner has focused on was to find new spaces for all four of his former and soon-to-be former tenants.

Barber Sukh Banwait of Razor’s Edge Barber Shop is moving to Second and G streets in the Depot Building near Subway.

While relieved to find a place, he was a bit stressed out.

“I gotta say, I don’t wish the experience I have had over the last few months on anyone,” he said. “Being displaced and being forced to grow your business without a proper business plan is very risky.”

Tibet Nepal relocated to 233 F St. where owner Hera Shakya said customers appreciate more natural light in its new location. Jeeba Jewelry will move to a suite in the adjacent Court ‘N Cedar building in July. Nails Only expects to move to a new location on D Street and expand its services.

— Reach Dave Ryan at [email protected] or call 530-747-8057. Find him on Twitter at @davewritesnews

Dave Ryan

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