Because of unpaid back taxes, Atascadero’s storied Printery building will be put up for online public auction in May, and the city is hoping to find a buyer with the means to restore the historical structure.
Meanwhile, a newly-formed local nonprofit called the Atascadero Printery Foundation expects to begin fundraising efforts in the coming weeks to buy the property to turn it into a community center for youth sports and recreation, a theater and other public activities.
“Our goal is to turn this into a true building for youth and adults,” said foundation leader Karen McNamara. “We want it to be a building that truly belongs to the community, not one that’s just sitting there destroyed.”
The city announced Tuesday that the 19,354-square-foot building has an estimated value of just over $1.3 million, including assessed value and back taxes, according to figures from the San Luis Obispo County Tax Assessor’s Office.
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The San Luis Obispo County Internet Public Auction for the Printery — APN No. 029-331-003 — will begin at 8 a.m. May 14.
One of Atascadero’s earliest structures, the registered historical landmark was was one of the first public buildings to be completed by city founder E.G. Lewis and was home to The Illustrated Review. During its history, the building also has served as part of Moran Junior College, with the addition of an indoor swimming pool and gymnasium; a Sheriff’s Office substation; the local Masonic Lodge; a photography studio; gymnastics school and other recreational and after-school programs.
In the early 2000s, the building went through several property title changes, including titles held by the Masons, the city of Atascadero and local developer Kelly Gearhart, where it ended up as one of the several properties included in his bankruptcy case. Gearhart was convicted in May 2014 of fraud and money laundering charges after scamming investors out of $20 million in a real estate scheme.
The building was severely damaged in the 2003 San Simeon Earthquake and deemed unsafe for occupation. Since then, it has fallen into disrepair and become an attractive location for squatters and illegal activity.
On Sunday, for example, a homeless man was arrested after he broke into the building and lit a small fire in the indoor pool area in order to stay warm as he slept. Damage to the building was minimal, but in response the city hired a casualty company to board up the building to prevent access.
Once purchased, the city says that significant resources will be needed to restore the building and retrofit it for earthquakes.
The Atascadero Printery Foundation hopes to do just that.
Formed last year, the foundation recently received its 501(c)(3) non-profit status with the aim to raise the funds needed to purchase the property and turn it into a community center with affordable rental space to provide organized youth and adult sports and recreational activities. McNamara said Atascadero has long lacked such a facility.
Phil Dunsmore, the city’s community development director, said the city is hoping to find a community-minded owner who will be a good steward for the unique property.
“The Printery is one of the most significant historical buildings in the county,” he said. “We would support the efforts of any private entity that wants to work toward restoring it.”
Dunsmore said because the property is not owned by the city, the city has no control over postponing the date it will go to bid.
McNamara said the foundation is looking for community partners interested in becoming a part of the group or assisting with their fundraising efforts. Interested parties are encouraged to contact McNamara directly at 459-5113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information on the online bidding process can be found at slocounty.ca.gov/tax/taxsaleinfo/bidderinstructions.htm.