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Browder building saved; barbecue restaurant owner to purchase historic property

Boulder City’s oldest commercial building will not be demolished and will keep its historic charm, according to its prospective new owner.

Charles Lawson of Eldorado Gold LLC, who bought the Browder building in the historic downtown area in 2015 with the intention of opening a restaurant on the site, announced on Monday that he was selling the building to Dan Fox, owner of Fox Smokehouse BBQ.

“These (buildings) come up for sale every 50 years if that,” Fox said. “It was just a good opportunity, and I couldn’t pass it up.”

Fox said the plans for the building are “secret,” but he and his family have some ideas about what to do with it. The sale will close in 20 days, which is when something would be done to the building, he said.

“We are going to keep it as historic and Boulder City as possible,” Fox added.

Lawson during the Monday news conference to announce the sale said that he was proud to turn the building over to Fox.

The Browder building at 552 Nevada Way was built in 1931. Ida “Ma” Browder opened the town’s first restaurant there. She expanded the structure to include 554 and 558 Nevada Way in 1940, according to a 2012 report done by the city’s Historic Preservation Committee.

“The Browder building is a gem in the landscape of Boulder City,” City Manager Al Noyola said. “I am pleased to see a deal between Mr. Lawson and Mr. Fox. We’ve all seen the Fox family’s dedication to our community, so I feel this is a strong opportunity to enhance our historic preservation and economic development in the downtown corridor.”

“‘Highest and best use’ is uttered often in the economic development world. With the announcement of the sale of the Browder building to one of our very successful businessmen of Boulder City, this terminology gains respect as we see a very key location in our historic district soon revitalized into a true asset,” said Jill Rowland-Lagan, CEO of the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce.

“Surrounding businesses will also benefit from this new energy that will be generated by life at this very important corner,” she added.

Private transaction

When asked about the sale price, Lawson said it was a private transaction between him and Fox.

At Monday’s news conference Mayor Rod Woodbury said this was a “momentous occasion” for the town.

“To me, this a victory for historic preservation … and economic development for Boulder City,” he said.

Lawson decided to renovate the property in September 2015 after community protests occurred when the old hospital was demolished. He started to refurbish it and transform it into a taco shop and art gallery. He was recognized for his preservation efforts by the Historic Boulder City Foundation, now the Boulder City History & Arts Foundation.

Work on the project stopped in January 2016 when Lawson felt the city was not being responsive enough to downtown businesses, then-Councilman Cam Walker said at that time.

Upset with the look of plywood on the building’s windows, a group of residents sought Lawson’s permission to have area artists paint murals on the boards. From April 2016 to June 2017, the Browder building featured exterior murals done by local artists that depicted life in Boulder City. They were taken down and replaced with plywood around the time Lawson applied for the demolition permit in 2017.

Promote preservation

“I apologize to each and every person in Boulder City that the plywood had to go up,” he said at Monday’s news conference.

Lawson said he did that because between the time he put up the boards and filed the demolition permit, all the town did was fight, and he wanted to get a dialogue started about historic preservation.

”I wish the people in this town would stop distrusting each other and thinking people are up to something. … None of that is going on,” he said.

Lawson also said he thought City Hall was a little stale during that time and needed a refresh, which he said it has received.

On Saturday, March 23, Lawson put up a sign on the building thanking Woodbury, Councilwoman Peggy Leavitt and Councilman Rich Shuman for their help with the building. It did not mention Councilmen Warren Harhay or Kiernan McManus, the other two members of the council.

The sign was met with criticism by the public.

Lawson said the sign was not meant to be divisive nor a hit on the two council members left out. Rather it was because the three mentioned were “consistent voices in the three years of challenges.”

“These three were a steady force of those three years of trying to bring people together. … These are the three people who I think have the right leadership for this small town,” he said.

The Browder building had been represented by local Realtor Bret Runion, who owns Desert Sun Realty. According to Runion, it was not listed with him at the time of its sale.

He said Fox is a Realtor in his office, and he went to Lawson and they struck a deal.

Fox is also renovating the old Casa Flores restaurant on Nevada Way. He said their goal is to open that location in the fall around September and October.

Lawson also owns the Scratch House at 1300 Arizona St. The former restaurant has plywood on its windows, and Lawson said he and the city are working to improve its appearance. He also said there has been some interest from potential buyers.

Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at cgoodyear@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.

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