State of the Downtown Calexico area after the 7.2 Magnitude Earthquake

By Mario Conde

Downtown Calexico is back on business with 90% of its stores opened but there are buildings that still need to be repaired on some face condemnation.

Last Wednesday, the Calexico Business Improvement District heard a presentation from City Building Manager, Ralph Morales, about the state of the downtown area after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake last month. Morales said that he has spent most of his time on downtown after the earthquake due the damages. Morales said that after the earthquake 76 buildings were red tag in downtown from 1st to 3rd street. At this time, Morales said that 20 buildings are red tag now.  Almost 50% of buildings are red tag because buildings next to them are in highly damaged condition and not because they are condemned.  Nineteen buildings are yellow tagged meaning that contractors can now enter to start working on renovations.

Morales said that T.C. Worthy on Second Street will have to be demolished because of its condition but said the property owners have to make a decision if they will go forward and fix it or decide for condemnation. The stores next to T.C. Worthy can re-open after improvements are made.

May 14, 2010 is the deadline for all building owners to provide information on the action plan of their buildings to issue permits and to inform the tenants of what needs to be done.   City is calling owners before the deadline to get information as soon as possible.

Assistant City Manager, Armando Villa, commended Ralph Morales for being accessible to downtown merchants. Villa said the owners of Gran Mercado have not sent their contractor to begin the plans with the city to approve the improvements that need to be made for the building.  All that is needed, he said, is for the contractor to spend 3 days with building department and begin their project.  After the work begins then the surrounding businesses can also run their businesses again.

Morales also indicated that the Historic De Anza Hotel has now lowered its status from red tag to yellow tag and contractors can begin doing the repairs to the historic building and could see a re-opening later this year.

The building that holds Payless, the Hot Dog stand, and Casa Bonita on second street was severally damaged since roof on the Casa Bonita store fell down and is pulling the roof from Payless side to the left. Renovations on the Payless store are being made right now and the building will have a new roof and a new wall. Construction might last two months.

BID member Christina Rocha asked how the City can improve pedestrian security on the downtown area because the fences at downtown make it look like war zone and asked if they could remove those fences and replace it with wooden pedestrian walkways.

Morales said that there are two problems because if a building would collapse there could be a danger that the front could fall towards the street and harm pedestrians.  That’s why there are sections where half of the street is blocked for safety on red tag buildings.  In other sever buildings there is no other option but to protect pedestrians from being harmed if a building was to fall.

The BID will continue to meet regularly to update the status of the downtown area.