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Fisk building sale almost a done deal

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Joe and Amanda Mason say that their planned ice cream shop in the Fisk Building will honor their grandparents and the Southern farm lives they led. They talked to the Roswell City Council prior to the Thursday votes to approve selling the building to them for $30,000. (Jeff Tucker Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Eight months after first expressing an interest in buying the downtown Fisk Building, a local couple has been approved by the city as buyers.

Amanda Mason, a short-sale real estate specialist with a law firm, and her husband, Roswell Police Detective Joe Mason, attended the Thursday night Roswell City Council meeting that accepted their contract to buy the building at the southeast corner of Fourth and Main streets for $30,000.
“We are just hoping that everything goes smoothly from here on,” said Amanda Mason on Friday.
The sale is now subject to a 45-day review period, primarily so that state officials with the New Mexico Board of Finance can ensure the validity of the contract. But objections from the public are also possible.
Mason estimates that closing will occur by the end of the year, if no objections are raised, and that the opening of the couple’s planned Southern-style ice cream and sweets shop, dedicated to her grandparents, will happen the following year.
The City Council passed two motions 7-1 related to the transactions. One motion approved a resolution authorizing the sale, and the other approved the contract itself that transfers ownership to Mason Holdings LLC.
Councilors Savino Sanchez and Jason Perry were absent, but Juan Oropesa was the only dissenting vote on the Council. He expressed some concern that the process had not been as transparent or as unbiased as possible, especially given that one of the people involved is an employee of the city of Roswell and the sales price was fairly low.
The votes follow a public Request for Proposal process and months of public meetings, including a hearing prior to Thursday’s Council vote at which four people and Amanda Mason spoke.
Two business people expressed support for the business idea and the Masons, while another person said that the city could probably receive more money for the building.
Christie Mann, president of the Hispano Chamber of Commerce, one of the two remaining tenants in the Fisk Building, said she did not oppose the sale. However, she told councilors, she wants the city to assist the organization, what she called an asset to Roswell, if it cannot find a suitable, affordable new space.
“We are currently paying relatively low rents to the city, and in search for property at a comparable location, I am finding rents in excess of two or three times what we are currently paying,” Mann said.

Originally, the sale contract was structured so that Mason Holdings LLC paid $21,500 to the city and $8,500 to the Hispano Chamber in relocation assistance. The contract was revised, however, after a few city councilors expressed in committee meetings and at a previous City Council meeting that they were concerned about the fairness of assisting one tenant without assisting the other, the Chaves County DWI Prevention Program.
Some also said that they thought the relocation assistance portion of the sale could run counter to the New Mexico Constitution, which prohibits government entities from donating cash, property or credit to non-governmental entities.
“I understand the change in the contract in taking away the help the buyers were offering,” Mann said, “However, it does leave us in a predicament. … Compared to similar businesses, we are one of the lowest funded businesses of our kind. Having our rents raised to even double of what we are currently paying will greatly hurt us. I just want assurances that the city will be helping with relocation assistance if we are not able to find a location with similar rents, both possibly financially and in negotiations with finding available locations similar to our current location.”
City of Roswell Planning Manager Bill Morris said that the city is now talking with property owners to help the chamber in finding a new office.
Councilor Jeanine Corn Best suggested that the Hispano Chamber of Commerce might consider moving in with the Roswell Chamber of Commerce on West Second Street, at least temporarily.
The Fisk Building was built in 1902 as a bank and has been owned by the city of Roswell since 2013, when the county transferred ownership. Over its history, it also has been a bar and lounge.
The building has about 7,474 square feet of space and is zoned C-3, central commercial district, which means it can house retail businesses, offices or wholesale operations.
Appraisers have put the market value at about $165,000, but noted that extensive repairs would be needed to meet International Building Codes. In their bid, the only one received by the city after it issued a public Request for Proposals in July, the Masons quoted an expert in estimating needed repairs at $206,000.
Work on the building cannot occur until it is vacant, Mason said, who has characterized the undertaking as “massive” and has stated her intentions of having her short-sale business office in the renovated building so that she will be on-site with the ice cream shop.
As a condition of the sale, the Masons must make the improvements to the building and must open their store. If not, the building can revert back to city ownership.
Senior writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.