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No buyers for Lodi’s battered Sunset Theater building

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Posted: Thursday, June 30, 2011 12:25 pm | Updated: 8:53 am, Fri Jul 1, 2011.

The auctioneer stood in front of a small crowd and called for bids for Lodi's Sunset Theater on Thursday, but no one budged.

Only a few Lodi residents showed up to the San Joaquin County Superior Courthouse steps, and none offered bids. So for the time being, the building will continue to simply sit on West Lodi Avenue.

Priced at what local real estate agents have claimed to be a "reasonable" price of $300,000, Lodi residents who did attend the auction stood in silence as the auctioneer read off the price and waited for bids, though none came.

The building is now in the hands of Los Angeles-based private mortgage company Pacifica First National, Inc., with Avi Bienenfeld, vice president of the company, on hand Thursday to see how the auction would play out.

Because no one stepped forward to purchase the building, ownership reverts back to his mortgage company, Bienenfeld said. The building is now called a "perfect title property," meaning the building is now free of liens and legal questions as to ownership of the theater.

"We plan to market the building, and will not sell it for lower than $300,000," he said. "This was not a normal process. We have finished off building projects such as this in the past, so we know what to do, but normally this is not the process most companies go through to sell a building."

But for the time being, the building will continue to remain vacant until Bienenfeld can send a crew to Lodi to assess the theater and see what cleaning or repairs need to be done. He said it could take anywhere from two to three weeks before assessments could take place. The size of the lot alone is massive, totaling over 22,000 square feet. The building itself boasts more than 10,000 square feet.

For Lodi resident Dan Wilson, who lives in the housing complex immediately behind the theater, the Sunset Theater could not be more of a problem.

While he was surprised the building did not sell at auction Thursday, he said demolition or some other type of cleanup should be considered soon to try and fix the host of issues that come with the homeless people and drug addicts that he says frequents the back of the building or who have found ways to get inside the theater.

"It's hell living behind the Sunset," he said. "Drug addicts leave discarded needles lying around that kids could step on, and the theater itself is more than just an eyesore. Any type of business here would be better than the blight the theater is right now."

City spokesman Jeff Hood said there is not much the city can do to try to move along the process of improving the area. He said the most the city could do should they get involved would be to update the building in terms of code enforcement such as parking spot requirements or fire safety.

Hood said the building's interior has apparently been completely gutted and that the theater itself is "a shell."

"It's been for sale for a long time so it's not surprising (the building) didn't sell considering the condition it's in," he said. "The city would like to see some change there certainly, either see it demolished or renovated. But the obstacles for renovation are daunting to say the least."

Contact Katie Nelson at katien@lodinews.com.

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  • roy bitz posted at 11:38 pm on Sun, Jul 3, 2011.

    roy bitz Posts: 489

    It seems to me this property was abandoned many years ago. In my view, this building is no different than an abandoned/trashed vehicle on a country road. It is an eye sore and may even be a health hazzard.
    Our city code enforcement policiesl with abandoned vehicles---it should include provisions to deal with buildings that have a negative impact on the city and may pose health issues for citizens.
    Mr. Mayor---Mr. City Manager---Mr. City attorney---anyone?

  • Joe Silva Sr posted at 7:59 pm on Fri, Jul 1, 2011.

    Joe Silva Sr Posts: 3

    I say the lot is worth $100k. The approx cost to remove the building and end up with a clear lot is probably around $300k The time it would take to coordinate all of the work including permitting, hiring of contractors etc would be worth another $100k The way I see it the current owners will have to pay out approx $400k and hopefully be able to get $100k for the property when all is said and done. They stand to loose at least another $300k more on their BAD investment! So the real quesion is, Did they really think someone would fork over $300k just to spend another $400k and up up with $100k? A kindly disclaimer on my numbers, they are obviously hypothetical but I think you all get the gist of my rant here.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 7:17 pm on Fri, Jul 1, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    its about 25 K too high... thats all.

  • Doug Chaney posted at 4:47 pm on Fri, Jul 1, 2011.

    Doug Chaney Posts: 1232

    Josh, what's wrong with $33K. Check the city of Lodi and LUSD and see what outrageous lease and rental fees they are paying. And if you take time to dig deep enough, the good old boys they are renting/leasing from are fattening their wallets, thanks to the likes of the 3 amigos downtown.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 11:50 am on Fri, Jul 1, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Josh... I think Dave is about right

  • Josh Morgan posted at 6:56 am on Fri, Jul 1, 2011.

    Josh Morgan Posts: 529

    Dave.....is that a typo? $33,000 per month? That just can't be. There must be something else to the story.

  • Dave Christy posted at 4:44 pm on Thu, Jun 30, 2011.

    Dave Christy Posts: 27

    Big Brother needs to get involved, when the old Blair Bros. property downtown was too contaminated for anybody to get a permit to do anything with it , The COL stepped in smothed it over and built a new downtown theatre on it. DMV paid $ 4,000.00 rent monthly for the old bldg. on Pine the new one in Beckman Ranch we the tax payers now pay $ 33,000.00 monthly. Gov. needs to buy it they don't have to play by the rules like developers, they have unlimited funds, or used to, maybe they can't play anylonger. I think the comment yesterday was right I resend my bid of $25.00 .

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 2:43 pm on Thu, Jun 30, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Since birds already use it as a home, why not make it a sanctuary for the white crane...
    already has rustic seating area for people to observe... just remove the roof and open it up for nature...
    Maybe sell popcorn and snacks …

  • Jay Samone posted at 1:50 pm on Thu, Jun 30, 2011.

    Jay Samone Posts: 359

    Too bad it wasn't like the auctions I've been to. Starting bid $300k - start dropping the $ amounts until someone starts it. Then you work your way up to your original starting amount. Although I highly doubt they would have had any takers at $25k. I say the new owners donate it to our NP Impact Lives. We can make it a project for our programs clientele and use it for a learning tool and it will keep them off the streets.

  • Matt Lewis posted at 1:26 pm on Thu, Jun 30, 2011.

    Matt Lewis Posts: 2

    300k min bid no one would jump on that. I'll give them $1 for it assuming there isn't back taxes on it.

  • Jay Samone posted at 12:53 pm on Thu, Jun 30, 2011.

    Jay Samone Posts: 359

    What a shock! I thought for sure someone was going to AT LEAST put a $25 bid in it. What happened? lol.



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