Not too long ago, the Hotel Terry had a date with a wrecking ball. Now, the historic Downtown Stockton building may have a new lease on life.
According to Mahala Burns of Cort Companies, which specializes in redeveloping older buildings downtown, the recent buyer of the hotel on the northwest corner of Main and American streets intends to turn the former flophouse into a farmers market and apartments. Reportedly, work has already begun clearing out the building to get it ready for its transformation.
Through Burns, the developer declined to be interviewed or have his name published. However, Burns revealed that the Hotel Terry was purchased from Barry Swenson Builder, a San Jose-based firm that won the property in a settlement with the city of Stockton from a lawsuit regarding the demolition of the Marina Towers several years ago. Apparently, the hotel’s new owner is no stranger to revitalization, owning 11 properties in Oakland and several in Stockton– including another downtown building– according to Burns. Moreover, he apparently intends to call Stockton home soon.
“He’s unafraid,” Burns said. “He just gets in and does it.”
He also has a big job on his hands.
Built in 1912, the Hotel Terry was one of several structures that rose around the waterfront as Stockton grew as a hub of agriculture and industry. But as the 20th century progressed and development steadily moved north, the hotels became home to lower-rent individuals, and eventually fell into extreme disrepair. The city of Stockton shuttered many of these buildings in the early 2000s with aggressive code enforcement and seized the properties through eminent domain.
Initially, the plan was to raze the hotels and turn them into surface parking lots that could eventually be used as host sites for redevelopment projects. But following several lawsuits seeking to compensate residents kicked out through the code enforcement and to protect the historic buildings from demolition, the city agreed to spare several hotels, including the Terry.
In the meantime, the hotels sat vacant, deteriorating to the point that Burns doubts any of them can be returned to use. Except perhaps for the Terry, which Burns called the “nicest” downtown hotel still standing.
The future of the Hotel Terry looks significantly brighter than it did several months ago. While the shell of the building will reportedly remain intact, along with its signature architecture, the interior will be rebuilt. Initial plans call for a farmers market on the first floor with an open space overlooked by a mezzanine which Burns described as “stunning.” The upper floor may eventually be reborn as market-rate housing.
This hope for the Hotel Terry represents the type of mixed-use application that’s desperately needed to revitalize downtown Stockton — one that brings an amenity needed for urban life as well as the population to sustain it. And if the farmers market and market-rate apartment concept prove workable, it could signal a way forward for the rest of the area.
But it’s premature to hail any redevelopment of the Terry as a catalyst for further projects in the city’s historic core. Each hotel has its own unique set of challenges, and refurbishing other vacant buildings could very well be more problematic, according to some who have seen their interiors.
Activists have pushed to use the historic hotels for new housing or hybrid residential-commercial developments for several years. Some disagree that the buildings are wholly unsalvageable, and hope to find grants and partnerships to reclaim the hollowed-out hulks. But after nearly 10 years, the Terry is the only hotel that has found a buyer willing to undertake the risk.
“(The developer) came on the tour of those hotels,” Burns said. “He said, ‘No, no I can do it.’ After he saw them, he said ‘I’m really glad I ended up with the Terry.’
“They’re in terrible shape. You can’t preserve something by doing nothing for 13 years,” she added. “That’s not preservation. That’s letting a building rot in place. If you want to preserve something, you have to take active steps to preserve it.”