California Organics plan stalls, new options sought
After a 27-month process to apply for a state job development grant fell flat for California Organics, community leaders are searching for new ways to fill the empty giant among downtown Nevada City storefronts.
California Organics, a deli and retail outlet located in the Seven Hills Business District, was eyeing the million-dollar, low-interest loan to move into the vacant Broad Street Furnishings building on Broad Street.
State officials recently rejected owner Chris Kysar’s nearly 400-page loan pre-application.
He still has the option to move forward with the project, but it’s a major setback.
“We had a tremendous amount of support from the city and county,” said Chris Kysar. “The only place we’ve had problems is with (the state).”
As the project’s future looks dim, building owners are considering potential tenants.
Since they closed escrow on the building in May 2009, they have been paying for upkeep and have lost potential revenue.
“It was a burden, but it was one that we were happy to endure because we were given firm assurances (from the state) that the grant would go through,” said Gary Tintle, who owns the building along with him wife, Patty, and Kay and Kim Baker.
Other parties have shown interest in renting the building – including sustainability advocates with the Alliance for a Post Petroleum Local Economy (APPLE), which met with Tintle this week to discuss a potential community center.
“There’s lots of excitement in town about the building,” Tintle said.
Community Development Block Grants, such as the one Kysar applied for through Nevada County, are administered by the state department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) and are tricky to land.
The particular grant Kysar applied for – called an over-the-counter loan – draws from a state pool of $7 million. The HCD gets about 10 pre-applications each year from around the state, and an average of four will pass to committee review. So far this year, no grants have been funded, according to HCD Deputy Director Chris Westlake.
While the California Organics proposal didn’t pass a recent review, “it doesn’t mean it can never come back,” Westlake said. “We still have staff reviewing it.”
But to get the pre-application ready, Kysar had flown in experts from as far as the Midwest and spent months re-working the application after state officials had sent it back earlier.
He isn’t holding out much hope that the grant will pan out and is seeking other funding avenues.
“I had so much invested in the process,” he said. “Had I known this was this dysfunctional, I certainly would not have pursued it.”
Kysar’s vision for the former furniture store includes food service operations on the mezzanine level, with tables and booths for dining and windows that would open up to Broad Street. The ground floor would house the retail operations, including produce, vitamins and books.
It would add about 38 new positions to the California Organics staff, which currently employs approximately 35 people. It could also add vitality downtown.
Kysar said he’s not giving up on the dream yet, but understands that the building owners may need to bring in new tenants.
“For the town, it’s an important project because there are very few businesses downtown that are bringing locals in on a daily basis,” he said.
To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail email@example.com or call (530) 477-4247.
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