By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
The CB FOX and Reel Deal buildings are empty but the possibilities are endless for what could go into these properties, Los Alamos County Council learned Tuesday night during its regular work session
Los Alamos County is in a 90-day due-diligence period with the owners of these properties, Tigard Pacific RE, LLC and Trinity Los Alamos, LLC, as it weighs whether to purchase these two properties.
Public Works Director Anne Laurent reported that there is 30 days left in the due diligence period. The presentation made Tuesday night served as a “check in point” for the due diligence process. A final report will be given to council at its March 16 meeting.
The current opinion on council regarding the potential purchase of these two properties is a mixed bag.
As the purchase agreement is now, Councilor Sean Williams said he does not support it.
“As things currently stand, I don’t think there is any way this makes sense and my personal preference would be to stop spending money on due diligence,” he said.
However, Williams said he is in favor of splitting the purchase agreement and allowing the County to purchase the Reel Deal building but not the CB FOX property.
He explained while he thought the County acquiring the Reel Deal is “a perfectly fine idea,” he feels there is already a lot of civic space in the downtown area. Furthermore, Williams said he believes pursuing options like owner occupancy or using the County’s Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) ordinance won’t work.
From his perspective, Williams said a business co-op has never been formed to purchase other “oversized, overpriced” local properties because businesses decided it just doesn’t work. Also, Williams noted that in the County’s LEDA ordinance there is a restriction that retail cannot be competitive.
Council Vice Chair James Robinson agreed that using CB FOX for civic space is a bad idea.
“It should be maximized to meet the residential, commercial and retail goals of the County … I think we should concentrate more on what we could get for the other strategic goals while focusing on civic goals on the existing … County facilities or potential use of the Reel Deal,” he said.
Councilor David Reagor said he believes the Reel Deal is a “gem” and hopes that the property could be sold to a movie theatre chain once the lockdown due to the pandemic ends, but ultimately the County shouldn’t be involved in the sale of either property.
“What are we doing in the middle of this real estate flip,” he asked. “I don’t see how that happens, that we add anything to that system of real estate spectators by being another person in the mix.”
Councilor David Izraelevitz offered a different opinion.
“I am still very interested and excited about both projects,” he said.
Buying the Reel Deal is easier to visualize but Izraelevitz pointed out that the CB FOX building is a key feature of the downtown.
“I also think the CB FOX building is kind of an anchor location … for that south side of Central to become another kind of antisepetic Venetian blinds where you don’t see what is going on … I think it may be that is what has to happen … but if there is a time for us to step outside of our comfort zone and try to do something different, special and push the downtown residential and really have the developers and residents see what it is to live on Central Avenue … I think that would be very attractive.”
Councilor Sara Scott said she sees this as an opportunity to give the public some of the things they have repeatedly said they want.
People have expressed interest in owning a condo downtown and having housing downtown would support local business, Scott said.
“I do think that these different looks, different options for these two different, very different, properties have taken into account all the wants and needs of our community …,” she said.
To help give more clarity about what could possibly go into these properties, Laurent said a consultant, FBT Architects, was hired to explore future uses and what is feasible for these two buildings.
FBT Architects presented several different scenarios for each building. They varied from doing very little to the properties to major renovations.
Laurent emphasized that there are no final decisions or recommendations for the buildings, the Council was only being presented with different options.
Scenarios for CB FOX include:
- Mostly minor changes. The first floor would continue to be commercial space whether that is restaurants, retail, fitness, etc. The second floor would be made into apartments or some type of residential component.
- Alternatively, but still keeping the shell of the CB FOX building as is, convert a portion of the first floor back into a theatre, which was the building’s original use.
- Partial demolition and new additions. Demolish the south wing and build new residential additions to the remaining building, including above the space that was CB FOX Kidz. This scenario also would offer residential and commercial spaces.
- Demolish the entire building and rebuild with commercial and residential space.
Scenarios for the Reel Deal include:
- Remodel the building within the existing layout. One of the four theaters could be maintained while another theater and concession area could be converted into a tween center for middle school students. Finally, create a black box theater space.
- Turn one theater into a community space such as an art gallery or meeting room/rental space as well as provide storefront space for LA Cares, the local food pantry.
- Explore options that would allow for expansion of uses on the site.
Robinson wondered what the cost estimates are for the two different properties. Laurent said costs are still being developed and won’t be known prior to the March 16 council meeting.
When Williams wondered how much has been spent, Laurent said approximately $50,000 was spent to hire FBT Architects.
Councilor Denise Derkacs asked what would happen if Council chose to do nothing.
The worst-case scenario would be the properties sit empty for long time, Laurent said. The best-case scenario is that the current owners find a new owner or tenant and works with the County on a re-development plan.
She added that, before the properties were offered to the County for purchase, the owners’ plans were to use the CB FOX building as office space and try and find some retailers.
As for the Reel Deal, Laurent said the owner had plans to use it as file storage and office space.