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December 12, 2006 > Long live the ‘toaster’ … and Centennial Hall

Long live the ‘toaster’ … and Centennial Hall

by Steve Warga

In the continuing saga of Hayward’s former city office building-known by some as the “toaster”-current owner, InterCoastal Property Group (IPG), will not be razing the structure as previously discussed. This means the 11-story, abandoned building will continue goading civic leaders every time they glance its way from today’s City Hall. It also means Centennial Hall will continue operating as is.

Back in May, City Manager Jesus Armas thought he’d finally forged a deal to finally end a nine-lives sort of mortality the building has enjoyed since the city abandoned it in 1991 due to seismic damage. IPG had agreed in principal-albeit reluctantly-to raze the tower as part of a deal to purchase the parking garage immediately adjacent to the 11-story building. The city offered favorable purchase and financing terms for the garage in exchange for removing the towering structure, rising like a sore thumb above Hayward’s northeastern skyline. IPG planned to construct a high-rise condominium complex atop the parking garage. It was never clear what they might have planned for the tower property once it was razed.

This all came to a quiet halt in recent days. IPG decided to put plans on hold due to condominium market conditions which have softened considerably in the past few months.

In a related development, Armas acknowledged that IPC’s decision also puts a hold on the city’s intent to request proposals for redeveloping Centennial Hall, a long-time money loser. “Given IPG’s announcement, we’re not going ahead with our Request For Proposals for Centennial Hall.” The city will continue to consider alternate sites for the Hall, as part of a strategic plan to construct a more ambitious, convention-type facility somewhere else in the city. But there’ll be no changes for now.

Residents now have more time to try figuring out how former mayor Roberta Cooper saw a toaster when she looked at the old city building. By any name, fair or foul, the 11-story building survives, as do Centennial Hall and the parking garage. What’s next? No one will say, just now. One thing’s for sure, Armas and his staff will not give up their attempts to make something more attractive of the old city hall, even it’s only a level plot of grass.

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