Hanford City Council approved a 60-day exclusive negotiating agreement with 4Creeks, an engineering company in Visalia, that could lead to their purchase and renovation of the Bastille.
The agreement lets 4Creeks do an evaluation of the historic building before committing to purchase the Bastille and turning it into a profitable public venue such as a restaurant or office building.
4Creeks’ most recent success in converting a historic building into a public asset is the Darling Hotel in Visalia. The formally mothballed art deco building owned by Tulare County is now an upscale hotel ranked as one of the best new places to stay in the country by Tripadvisor.
The vote at the Hanford City Council meeting on June 15 was 4-1 with Council member Art Brieno voting no.
Brieno stated that he did not have enough information and wanted to take a second look at a proposal submitted by local Developer Jeremy Irons. Brieno made a motion that the vote on the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement be tabled.
The motion died for lack of a second.
Considered “the jewel of Hanford,” the Bastille served as the Kings County jail from 1897 to 1964. Several restaurants and nightclubs occupied the Bastille over the years, with the last tenant leaving in 2009.
The city of Hanford acquired the Bastille along with the Old Court House from Kings County for $1 in 2014.
For years, city council members and residents were against selling what they considered a symbol of Hanford. But local sentiment swung in the other direction in 2019 when faced with the hefty price tag for renovations. According to Hanford city staff the Bastille needs $1.1 million in repairs just to stabilize the building and bring it up to code. That amount does not include renovations needed to make the Bastille usable for the public.
The Bastille has been closed to the public for almost 20 years save for a few tours by a national ghost hunting organization.
During public comment seven residents, including Irons, his wife, and business partner Greg Enloe, spoke in support of Irons’ proposal for the Bastille over 4Creeks.
Hanford resident Bob Ramos said it was suspicious that 4Creeks submitted a proposal on May 17 and it managed to get on the closed session agenda May 18. He wanted the process of considering 4Creeks to come to a halt and have the city council consider Irons’ proposal.
During Irons’ public comment he said that he had submitted three proposals over the last few years to renovate the Bastille but that they got “shuffled around and then rejected.”
Rene Irons expressed her desire for her husband to get a “fair shot.” She said that it was obvious that City Manager Mario Cifuentes and former Community Development Director Darlene Mata did not like her husband and that their actions surrounding the Bastille seemed corrupt.
Enloe, one of Irons’ potential investors, said that 4Creeks Letter of Intent was vague and that Irons had to put in a lot more work into his most recent proposal. Enloe’s vision was that the Bastille had the potential to put Hanford on the map with an outdoor café, restaurant and playground.
Hanford city attorney Ty Mizote confirmed that the city received two proposals, one from 4Creeks and the other from Irons, and that the city chose to go forward with the one submitted by 4Creeks.
He recommended that the council approve the 60-day negotiating agreement so that 4Creeks “can enter the building and start doing their homework.” If the city council does not like the final results of 4Creeks investigation Mizote said they can end the relationship with the engineering company.
Council member Dianne Sharp said that there were “so many attractive aspects about the 4Creeks offer” and that the company had the track record to pull off a project of this magnitude. Sharp said that being from a long-time Hanford family she never thought she would be in favor of selling the Bastille, but felt 4Creeks plan was a great opportunity for the revitalization of the community and Hanford’s downtown.
Council member Kalish Morrow said that 4Creeks’ proposal was beyond anything the city was financially able to do and that the Bastille had fallen into disrepair.
4Creeks has offered to purchase the Bastille for $1 in exchange for paying for repairs, retrofitting and renovations. A sales agreement will be prepared if 4Creeks finds the property to be acceptable and the parties are able to negotiate terms during the sixty day negotiation period.
The agreement will be presented to the city council sometime at sometime in the future.