The decision to tear down the storied Yucca Center at a cost of at least $400,000 came after the city received only a single bid to purchase the property, a bid deemed below market price and incomplete.
City records indicate that Michael L. Hurst of Complete Rehabilitation Services Inc. submitted the only bid Jan. 9 in response to the city’s request for proposals seeking a potential buyer for the 106-year-old building at 500 S. Richardson Ave. The Request for Proposals was issued in November.
Hurst offered $15,000 cash for the 2.95-acre property, which includes the 38,200-square-foot, three-story building, a playground and a parking lot.
The Yucca Center had served as the city’s youth recreation center for years until its closure in 2016. Now most of those youth activities occur at the Roswell Adult and Recreation Center on North Missouri Avenue.
“The city of Roswell will be relived (sic) of the said property and the monetary responsibility of restoring or tearing down the building, thus saving the city of Roswell hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Hurst’s submittal letter indicated.
In a letter to city staff about the decision to reject the bid, Planning Manager Bill Morris said the amount offered was considered below market price, as judged by sales prices for comparable properties.
Morris wrote that Hurst’s submission also did not include all the requested information. Specifically, the bid lacked answers to questions about how the buyer proposed to utilize the property, how the future use would benefit the city and how the buyer would meet city requirements for the site.
Hurst did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
The Roswell City Council Infrastructure Committee voted Jan. 22 not to issue another RFP for bids but instead to demolish the structure. The center was partially closed in 2014 due to structural problems, including a leaking roof, and elevators that did not meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
It was permanently closed in early 2016 after Winter Storm Goliath in December 2015 did further damage to the roof and interior.
An estimate for the demolition, not including tearing up the parking lot, has been received from Environmental Remediation Management Services of Albuquerque for $405,138, city records indicate. Demolishing the parking lot would add another $16,085 to the bid.
The City Council will vote on whether to accept that bid and move forward with demolition at an upcoming meeting, said City Manager Joe Neeb. Tear down could begin as early as 30 days after that vote, he said.
“The city could sell the property for new development or utilize it for future city services,” Neeb stated in an email. “There are no specific plans for the property at this time.”
Before any decisions occur, the city plans to hold a public forum Feb. 20 to gather residents’ ideas and thoughts. That event is scheduled to occur at the Roswell Fire Station No. 1, at 200 S. Richardson Ave.
At various times in the past decades, city staff has considered shuttering or tearing down Yucca, which was built as a high school. In 2014, the city received $500,000 in state funding to repair the roof, but decided to use the money for other infrastructure projects.
In 2015, city workers appeared at public meetings with the recommendation of replacing, rather repairing, the structure. They estimated that it would cost $9 million to fix and $6 million to replace. The cost of the recreation portion of the $20 million recreation and aquatic center now under construction on West College Boulevard at the Cielo Grande Recreation Area has been put at roughly $9 million.
Neeb said that the recreational features of that construction project will include two full-sized basketball courts, twice the number that were available in the Yucca Center, and will meet ADA requirements and provide a safer and cleaner facility.
“The youth of Roswell are deserving of it,” he said.
He also noted that the original estimates about the cost of repairing Yucca was not necessarily comprehensive.
“The Yucca has parts over 100 years old,” he said, “and so much needed to be worked on, and the estimate was only on visible costs.”
A local volunteer said she prefers restoration but understands the city’s decision if funding is not available.
“I do support restoring a historical building,” said Kaarina Jager, who once belonged to the Historical Preservation Committee of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico. “But, on the other hand, if there is no one with the ability to restore it, then an empty building can be dangerous. It can attract too much attention from the wrong type of people.”
Jager said the preservation committee disbanded after about a year because it did not find the membership, funding or interest to continue at that time. She said that the lack of a large, well-funded preservation group is one reason why few options are available for aging, historic buildings in the city.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at email@example.com.