Bastille in Hanford

Jerry Irons in front of Courthouse Square in downtown Hanford earlier this year. Irons has submitted an official proposal to the city to bring in a microbrewery to the Bastille and a restaurant to the Old Courthouse, but city officials say consideration of the proposal is on hold until the courthouse's failing HVAC system gets replaced.

Gary Feinstein/The Sentinel

HANFORD – An official business proposal to fill the Bastille and occupy the third floor of the Old Courthouse has been put on hold due to the need to replace the courthouse’s failing HVAC system, according to Hanford officials.

“We need to know that we’re going to be able to heat and cool the courthouse,” said City Manager Darrel Pyle.

The city put out a request for proposals for the Bastille in July.

The city owns both historic buildings. The courthouse is partially occupied by tenants, while the Bastille, a former jail, has been vacant since 2009.

By the time the deadline to submit proposals for the Bastille came on Aug. 19, only one concept had been submitted — a plan by local developer Jerry Irons to turn the Bastille into a microbrewery and to install a restaurant on the courthouse’s third floor.

There’s just one major catch: Irons’ proposal would require the city to spend a lot of money up-front to put in improvements to the run-down Bastille interior such as a larger kitchen, disabled-accessible restrooms and an elevator.

Irons’ estimate is that the city would need to invest $2 million-$2.25 million to get the Bastille, the courthouse and Courthouse Square to the point where he could bring in a microbrewery and restaurant.

Some of the money would be in the form of loans to Irons, while the city would be on the hook for the rest.

Irons would agree to lease the building from the city for 32 years, and he would invest some of his own money in Courthouse Square improvements.

Irons’ official proposal hasn’t been discussed by the City Council yet.

Pyle said the main hold-up is the failing HVAC system in the courthouse. Officials estimate it could cost around $500,000 to replace it.

Pyle said other businesses expressed interest in the Bastille before the Aug. 19 deadline, but Pyle said they decided to wait until after the city spends $600,000 on seismic retrofitting to the building’s exterior.

The city is expected to start soliciting bids soon from outside contractors to complete the job. Pyle said the work could begin as early as February.

The last tenant in the Bastille, a bar that was evicted by the city, left in 2009.

Pyle acknowledged that a lot of other interior renovation to the Bastille is needed in addition to the $600,000 for exterior work.

Irons said that his $2 million-$2.25 million estimate of how much work is needed in Courthouse Square — much of it focused on the Bastille — doesn’t include the $600,000 already allocated for Bastille seismic retrofitting.

“I believe … they’re going to have to fix [the interior],” Irons said. “You have to fix it for somebody to be able to come in.”

Pyle said that Irons’ estimate includes knocking out a wall of the Bastille and expanding the building to accommodate a commercial kitchen.

Pyle estimated that if the existing floor space of the Bastille is kept at its current size, it could cost up to $500,000 to renovate the interior.

City Councilman David Ayers said there would likely have to be a deal hammered out with Irons over how much the city would pay up-front and how much Irons would have to shoulder in rent or lease payments.

“If we do the tenant improvements, it would be with the idea that we would be able to get rent in return for the improvements,” Ayers said. “That would be something that would have to be negotiated.”

Hanford Mayor Justin Mendes said at this point he’s against the idea of the city spending as much money up-front on the Bastille as Irons’ proposal calls for.

Mendes thinks the city might be better off focusing resources on the courthouse, which he said has “active businesses in it.”

Mendes, who has proposed that the city should sell the Rabobank building to help pay for work on the Old Courthouse and the Bastille, said his “overall goal is to get the city out of the property management business.”

The reporter can be reached at snidever@hanfordsentinel.com or 583-2432. 

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