Changes ahead for Mervyns building, but it's not clear just what

Changes ahead for Mervyns building, but it's not clear just what »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — The long-vacant Mervyns department store on busy California Avenue will see some changes, but it's not clear exactly what.

Small businesses in the same building are being forced to leave, and some say that's because the building will be demolished. A real estate agent working with the property owner said that is only a rumor.

"The owner is evaluating all possibilities," Anthony Olivieri told Eyewitness News on Thursday. He's president of the Olivieri Commerical Group, and he's working with the owner of the big site in central Bakersfield.

Olivieri said the land owner is a large company out of Florida that has properties across the country.

"There's a rumor it's being torn down," Olivieri said. "The owner has looked at that, but it's not being pursued."

Still, several of the small nearby businesses believe that's what will happen.

The big, Mervyns store sits at one end of the large structure. Five smaller businesses are located at the other end.

One of those is a UPS store, and employees have been telling customers they have to shut down. In a letter dated Aug. 29, the owner says "...we have been informed that the property owner has decided to demo our building for a major reconstruction project."

Nearby, the dentist at Affordable Dentures told Eyewitness News his company was also told the building will come down, and that's why their lease was not renewed.

But, Olivieri said that's only one option, and he explained what's happening.

The agent said the site has been under the control of a long-term lease by the former Mervyns entity. That lease expires at the end of the year, and they must give the property back to the land owner.

That means the subleases of the smaller businesses must also end. That's why those businesses have to be out by Dec. 31.

Two sites are already vacant, they housed a hair care shop and a uniform business. The dentist and the UPS stores say they'll be out by the end of the year.

There's also a Payless ShoeSource store location. Workers inside said they plan to close up their site by the end of September. One customer was just walking in.

"I don't think it's a good idea," she said, "because a lot of people came here to buy their stuff."

It is a prime location, and Olivieri said the land owner appreciates that.

"The property owner is very aware of what can and could happen here," Olivieri said. He said they know it's a "great piece of real estate," and they want to make a decision that will make good business sense, and be good for the community.

Mervyns closed its store at the end of 2008 when the chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Olivieri said since that time, the Mervyns entity tried to lease it, but couldn't find a user that was a "good fit" for the empty building.

He said the structure was built about 40 years ago, and with its size and configuration there are only a handful of operations that might work well in it.

The agent said when the land owner was about to get the property back, they also looked into partitioning the vacant space to see if a user could be found. Olivieri said they got estimates on how feasible that would be.

Olivieri said the land owner also sent out contractors to get bids on what demolition would entail, and that may be how the rumor started about a possible teardown of the structure.

The dentist at Affordable Dentures, Dr. Hiram Rodriguez, told Eyewitness News he understands that business decisions that have to be made with the mostly vacant building. He's moving the dental office to a site a few blocks away, and he's OK with that.

As a UPS customer, Matt Dahm also understands something has to change for the big Mervyn's location.

"It'll be missed," Dahm said. "But hopefully, whatever comes (in) will be bigger and better."

Olivieri said the land owner hopes the same.

"There are ongoing discussions right now," Olivieri said. "Hopefully in the next three to four months there will be something to announce."

He hopes something will happen next year with all, or even just part, of the property.