HIGHLAND PARK –– In 2007 the city used the power of eminent domain to force the owner of the Security Trust & Savings Bank building to sell the imposing but vacant structure for use as a Highland Park City Hall and constituent services center. But the two-story building at the corner of Figueroa Street and Avenue 56 continued to remain vacant under city ownership. Now, as a result of letting the building sit dormant all these years, the city faces the possibility of being forced to offer back the historic monument to the owners.
State law requires that properties condemned under eminent domain be used for the intended purpose within 10 years or be offered back to the previous owner, according to a City Council motion introduced by Councilman Gil Cedillo. That means that the Highland Park City Hall and constituent service center would have to be up and running within two years to meet the deadline. But that apparently is not going to happen.
It will take $16.5 million and four years of design and construction work to reopen the building, according information provided by Cedillo’s office. Not only has the city failed to allocate or approve that expenditure, the proposed construction timeline would mean the city would fail to meet the 10-year deadline, forcing it to give back the bank building to the owner.
What’s the city going to do? For the moment, the motion by Cedillo is seeking to extend the deadline by another decade.
Arturo Chavez with Councilman Cedillo’s office said that the main problem has been that funding was never secured to reopen the building after former Councilman Ed Reyes lead efforts to take control of the property. That issue “was not resolved by the previous councilmember,” Chavez said in an email.
The building, constructed in the 1920s, needs a substantial amount of work, including the addition of bathrooms and an elevator that needs to be replaced, Chavez said. “The building is completely gutted upstairs and needs to be completely brought up to code,” he said.
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