The bulldozers were at the ready when Housley Demolition Co. arrived at City Hall East on Monday morning to apply for a residential demolition permit.
The permit was issue the same day and on April 26 the Odell-Mor was torn down.
Cristobal Carrillo, Associate Planner City of Visalia, had been the point man for the city during meetings concerning the historic building. He was only told after the Odell-Mor was demolished that the permit was issued. Carillo said he did not know why he was not informed about the demolition permit until after the building was torn down.
The Odell-Mor, at 209 N. Encina, was on the Local Historic Registry but was not in Visalia’s Historic District. It was considered part of a community of buildings that created an historic ambiance and part of the entrance to Visalia’s historic district.
Because the Odell-Mor had the lowest historical designation of “background” the city could not prevent the owners from tearing it down.
In 2018 the Odell-Mor was owned by JR Shannon, who pulled a permit for a remodel, but then decided to sell. The Toor family bought the building and initially planned on renovating it but changed course and decided to tear it down to build an apartment complex.
The Toors said they spent a lot of time on the building, and Shannon had done the same, and that is why he decided to sell. They said the family’s first choice was to renovate the building and rent it out but that the building was too challenging of a remodel.
At the Historic Preservation Advisory Committee (HPAC) meeting in August of 2020 the Toor family was accused of gutting the inside of the building without a permit. However, the HPAC would not have had the authority to prevent the removal of the interior. The committee is only authorized to review exterior alterations to historic structures. The city’s report at the time aid that “the exterior remains largely unchanged.”
The only option available to HPAC at their August meeting was to issue a six month moratorium ending February 26, 2021. The goal of the moratorium was to allow time for the Toor family and the historical committee to find alternative uses or development options to prevent demolition of the building.
Over the next few months the Toors and HPAC discussed and worked on alternatives but all of the options were cost prohibitive or did not materialize for lack of community interest.
With all their paperwork in order Arun Toor, spokesperson for the family, said they were relieved to complete the demolition. The building had become a nuisance with vagrants and the homeless breaking in and starting fires. Toor said they had spent thousands of dollars continually boarding up the building.
The future of the now empty lot remains unclear.
In 2019 the Toors submitted plans to the Site Plan Review Committee for a 14 unit multi-family complex to replace the Odell-Mor building. However, that particular project was given a “Resubmit” by the Committee, and nothing has been submitted since that time
Toor said that right now the family has other developments in the pipeline, such as an upscale office development in Visalia’s Business Research Park, and that they have not discussed their plans for the site.
According to Carillo, “The site is zoned D-MU (Downtown Mixed Use), which allows by right a number of commercial uses which would not require Planning Commission review. A residential proposal would require Planning Commission review.”
It is presumed that the owner will not continue with their original plan for an apartment complex.