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Paul Polasek: PumpHouse Restaurant is something to be proud of

By BY PAUL POLASEK
Sept. 15, 2012 at 4:15 a.m.

Councilman Paul Polasek

I want to share a local success story with my fellow Victorians. In early 2008, Victoria city staff began to discuss how to deal with the old Victoria water pumping station located in Riverside Park. The water plant was originally constructed in the 1890s and was removed from service in 2002 when the new surface treatment plant was finished. The annual cost to keep the property secure and providing basic maintenance was approximately $4,500. Several council members, including myself, took a brief tour of the long-closed facility and realized we didn't have too many options. City staff later provided demolition cost estimates for razing the pump house building alone of $250,000. Later, it was learned that this number did not include the demolition of the storage tank for an additional $290,000. It seemed the property was destined to sit idle, as it had for a number of years.

Council member Tom Halepaska had an interesting idea: offer the property for sale to the public. He believed someone may be willing to invest enough into the location to make it a very unique site for a restaurant or some other type venue. The city began the process to solicit bids. Several people inquired about the property and one bid was received from Dennis Patillo and Louise Hull Patillo. Their bid exceeded an appraisal estimated value by $2,500.

The new owners had significant hurdles to overcome to transform a 110-year-old water plant into a modern restaurant meeting all city codes. One of the early issues was ensuring adequate parking. Since the property is surrounded by park property, there was no option for the new owners to purchase additional adjoining property. Park land cannot be sold without a voter referendum. The planning department was able to work out a very successful resolution, after discussions with the zoo management; kayakers and other park users, a new parking lot for all would be built and owned by the city, if the pump house owners would be willing to pay for the majority of the cost of the lot. They would be allowed to count the new spaces to meet the parking requirements for the city. The city was able to get additional parking for the public while being pro-business. The new owners paid the city $48,527 for their share of the parking (about 70 percent of the total cost).

Many other hurdles were overcome by the new owners, including being required to expend $18,950 to locate two fire hydrants in front of the business. As unbelievable as it may sound, the water plant did not have water service or adequate sewer services to the site: cost $10,890; Commercial building permits $3,125, approximately $10,000 for a fire door separating the kitchen area from the main dining hall. They even had to pay to extend natural gas lines several hundred yards. I could go on, but the reader will get my point.

After months of renovation, the PumpHouse was complete. The good part is that a derelict city property that was a drain on taxpayer funds and generating no tax revenue for the public was transformed into something useful. The most recent assessed value on the tax roles is now $755,000 generating at least $5,000 a year in revenue for the city alone. (This does not include county and school taxes.) Nor does it include sales tax revenues, which are substantial. It has been a joy to see such a project come to fruition. We now have something that is unique to Victoria while preserving a bit of our history. Truly, something for all Victorians to be proud of.

Paul Polasek is a member of the Victoria City Council. Contact him at 361-485-0004 or email him at ppolasek@victoriatx.org.

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