The wrong message

Some properties in town are, shall we say, not quite up to Chico standards

Abandoned strip mall, Nord Avenue at Stewart

Abandoned strip mall, Nord Avenue at Stewart

Chicoans tend to take pride in the beauty of their city. So it’s jarring when we’re driving through an otherwise pretty area of town and suddenly see a property with overgrown weeds, boarded-up windows and a general lack of upkeep.

Clearly, with the economy in the dumps, not too many people are in the market for a new building—but leaving yours in disrepair sends a negative message to the whole neighborhood.

A year ago at this time, the CN&R exposed the 10 worst eyesores in town. Since then, there have been a few developments that deserve kudos, as responsible parties have worked to beautify Chico.

First is Chico State University. While it does have one building on our list of eyesores from last year (see sidebar), its newer buildings—the Student Services building and Wildcat Activity Center—have been built with the community and not just the campus in mind.

Second is Nantucket Home, a beautiful new addition to south Broadway.

Thank you for setting an example for the rest of Chico to follow. As for the places on this list …

Abandoned strip mall

Nord Avenue at Stewart

The old Gas Mart, 10th and Lindo avenues

Well, this strip mall isn’t all abandoned, but it sure looks it from the outside.

At the far end is Asia Market, with bamboo blinds that look as if they’ve been burned by too many years under the sun. Next door is empty and the one next to that has the words “Art Slut” printed at the top and appears to be the home of a grad art studio—In-Trunk Studios—though all that can be seen through the windows are some couches. A phone message there went unreturned. If they indeed do occupy the building, there may be hope for beautifying the outside.

The shop closest to the street is boarded up as well.

The old Gas Mart

10th and Lindo avenues

Signs and an elevated car indicate the place is now occupied by Brown’s Small Engine Repair, but a “Yes, We’re Open” sign and a weather-worn, hand-written, “Out to get parts” note on the side of the building don’t jibe with the message from the lot’s exterior.

Old Flowserve building, Ninth Street and Broadway

A conversation with Doug Brown confirmed he’s occupied the lot for five years now, commuting between shops in Sutter, Yuba City and Red Bluff, but there are plans for demolition. The building has been condemned and he and his partner were unable to do anything with the land until ground-contamination tests were completed.

“We know it’s an eyesore,” he said. The economy has some things on hold, but he hopes there will someday be a mini-mart or some office buildings back there to replace the old gas station, which he described as being “as old as Chico, just about.”

Old Flowserve building

Ninth Street and Broadway

This behemoth is a very strange-shaped building, and the faded sign and the nonexistent windows make it an eyesore kitty-corner from Chico Volkswagen. The company, Byron Jackson Pump, actually moved to Orland three years ago but still owns the building.

Actually, all three corners that face the car dealership are an eyesore, starting with the old Foster’s Freeze, moving on to Flowserve and finishing with a mystery metal square next to the colorful Herreid’s Music and Tacos de Acapulco.

Old Wok-n-Roll drive-thru, Mangrove Avenue

The good news is that Chico Volkswagen will be expanding over to the Foster’s Freeze lot and already owns the land. The sooner the better, guys!

Husa’s Ceramics building

Park Avenue at 15th Street

Another fenced-in, boarded-up, faded gross-out site on Park. Or is it? According to Joann Husa, she still runs her ceramics studio there, which opens at noon (closed all of July). When asked if she had plans to beautify her lot, she said, “That takes money, and you don’t make a lot of money in ceramics.”

Old Wok-n-Roll drive-thru

Mangrove Avenue

The old Wok-n-Roll signs are still inside this drive through, which was abandoned at least a year ago in favor of a strip-mall site just a few hundred yards away. Now the lot is up for lease. Any takers?

Downtown’s infamous empty plot

First and Main

Husa’s Ceramics building, Park Avenue at 15th Street

As we reported last year, the Breslauer Family Trust owns the lot and has offered a 100-year lease to potential builders—so long as the trust retains ownership of the land. Clearly after so many years without a taker, this offer isn’t quite sweet enough. It would be awfully nice to be welcomed to downtown Chico by something other than a dried-out, fenced-in lot.

Here’s an idea for the Breslauer trust: Sweeten the deal or build something yourself! It’s a primo place!

The old Grocery Outlet

East Park Avenue at MLK Jr. Parkway

This property in a prime location is empty and gross about 10 months out of the year (when it’s not occupied by the seasonal Halloween store). It needs some love, and it’s up for lease. Did we mention the location is prime?

The old Victor Industries building

East 20th Street

This lot is just plain ugly, and it takes up half a block on busy East 20th and extends back from the street quite a ways, too.

Downtown’s infamous empty plot, First and Main

Unfortunately, it’s been this way since 1985, when Victor Industries ceased operations. The metal can and tubing company was found to be a huge polluter—responsible for the plume of water contamination under southeast Chico. It’s paid millions in fines, and we’d be surprised if anyone actually wants to buy the toxic lot. It sure would be nice to clean the place up, though, both cosmetically and environmentally.

South Campus neighborhood

(most of the year)

We hate to generalize, because some of the homes and apartments south of campus are kept up quite nicely during the year. But, particularly in the blocks surrounding the raucous Five & I, the houses are often left littered with beer bottles, red cups and all manner of furniture on the front lawn.

Students, you’re part of our community too, and you’ll make your parents proud if you keep your neighbors happy.

Westside Green

Highway 32 near Eighth Avenue

The plans for this development had people—including this writer—drooling. And the homes themselves are super cute. Too bad New Urban Builders ran out of money partway through the building process and the people who’ve moved in only have a fraction of a neighborhood.

An outside company has bought the property, with plans to finish it up. We haven’t seen any forward movement yet, so we won’t hold our breath.