Written by David Castellon
After months of speculation on whether Fresno County will lease the six-story Rowell Building in downtown Fresno, the matter likely will be decided on Tuesday.
That’s when the county Board of Supervisors will decide whether to sign an agreement to lease the top five floors of the more than century-old building, which currently is undergoing a top-to-bottom renovation.
The bottom floor will be set aside for common areas and retail space.
Under the proposed lease, the county would pay more than $15.12 million over the course of the 10-year lease, with an option at the end of that time to extend the lease for another 10 years.
Before that happens the county could instead opt to buy the Rowell Building outright for $15 million between the 114th and 120th months, according to documents provided to the supervisors.
Back in February, scaffolding and tarps were put up to cover the Rowell building as its owner, Fresno developer Ed Kashian, began renovations of the exterior and interior.
Most of those coverings have been removed, though work continues inside the building.
The county’s decision to lease the building is no surprise, as Fresno County District Attorney, Lisa Smittcamp said in an interview with the Business Journal earlier this year that the county was in lease negotiations with Kashian’s representatives.
The Rowell Building, at the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Tulare St., offers 73,210 square feet of office space and parking.
“The District Attorney-Public Administrator has searched for a facility since 2013 that would allow for consolidation of staff and operations that are currently at three different locations: 929 L St., 1260 M St. and the Fresno County Plaza Building,” the report continues
“Consolidation of staff and operations would enhance the operational efficiencies,” the report continues.
Smittcamp also cited the Rowell Building’s proximity to the county courthouse as another advantage to moving her staff there.
Members if the DA’s staff working at the county the Juvenile Justice Center and at the Fresno County Sheriff’s Multi-Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium office would remain at those locations, according to the report to the supervisors.
As for Kashian, while he and his staff have in the past confirmed negotiations were underway with the county, they consistently declined to say whether the renovations to the Rowell Building were being done specifically for the DA’s Office.
If the board approves the lease agreement, the county would pay more than $1.44 million in rent annually over the first five years, and that rate would increase by 10 percent for the following years.
On top of that, the county would incur operating costs on the building – including janitorial services, landscape maintenance, property taxes and insurance – totaling an estimated $595,590 a year, the report states.