For the last 37 years, one of the most beautiful brick buildings in Boulder City has remained vacant. The walls have been vandalized with satanic graffiti, the windows covered in plywood and the copper wire stripped from the electrical conduit by thieves.
The water treatment building has been a point of contention for Boulder City residents for decades. Some want the building to be repurposed as a coffeehouse, wedding venue, brewery or any number of uses. Others want the building to remain exactly as it is: boarded up and inactive, only to be admired from a distance but not accessible to the public.
The building itself is currently zoned C1 (neighborhood commercial), which would allow for many of the proposed uses. Despite many attempts from the private sector to reactivate and repurpose the building, the city has never taken the necessary steps to do so.
Recently, the city of Boulder City commissioned an independent consulting firm to analyze the surplus properties owned by the city and advise them on the highest and best uses. This report identified no suitable city uses for the water treatment building or surrounding site and recommended the city should consider repurposing the building to become an asset that could be enjoyed by the public.
Despite the constant debate over the future of the water treatment building, at no point has the city taken action to poll the residents of Boulder City to determine the will of the majority. Instead, Mayor Kiernan McManus has taken it upon himself to put forth a bill to rezone the land it sits on as a government park. Doing so would restrict most proposed uses and create a burden on the taxpayers of Boulder City in perpetuity.
Who will be voting on this decision? The mayor and four City Council members, two of whom were appointed and not elected. Instead of 16,000 Boulder City residents deciding the future of this beautiful building, the decision could be made by the mayor and two unelected officials.
Boulder City residents deserve to have a voice. Prior to any zoning changes, the residents have the right to proper representation on the issue.
Here’s what I propose.
Step 1: Vote. Let the residents vote on the following question: Should the water treatment building be repurposed? If the answer is yes, we move on to step 2. If the answer is no, the building can continue to sit vacant.
Step 2: Determine a use. The city must host a series of town hall meetings and workshops to determine a use that is suitable for the building and appropriate for the area.
Step 3: Lease the building. I agree with the consulting firm; the property should not be sold, but rather remain city-owned. Doing so offers an assurance that the building is protected and can never be torn down or modified in any way that is not approved by the city.
Bringing the building to a leasable state will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 million. A scenario where both the city and the tenant contribute a sum of money toward the improvements would be mutually beneficial and financially justifiable as the city would be receiving a substantial return on investment. A lease rate of $10,000-$15,000 per month is plausible, which equates to $120,000-$180,000 per year in additional revenue for the city.
As a park, the water treatment building would cost the city money to maintain in perpetuity.
Repurposing the water treatment building would draw visitors to our town, help local businesses and bring energy, jobs and tremendous revenue to Boulder City.
Thirty-seven years ago the water treatment building was abandoned. As a city we can either bring the building back to life or leave it boarded up as it continues to die a slow death. I encourage you to email your mayor and city council and be present at the Feb. 11 City Council meeting.