The reuse of the Hunt-Boyer mansion downtown has become a topic of much discussion among the Davis City Council and local groups.
The Hunt-Boyer mansion is located on the corner of Second and E Streets and is currently used as office space for city staff, but the city wants to put it to better use. City staff are currently working on an analysis of the building and its potential uses.
“We looked at several reuse options – one was retail and we quickly excluded that,” said deputy city manager Ken Hiatt at the council’s Dec. 9 meeting. “[The mansion] is set back from the street and does not have good retail windows.“
After ruling out using the mansion as retail space, the staff began to examine other options.
“We looked at specifically restaurants and the concept of a visitor’s information center,” he said. “Both a restaurant and a visitor’s center are viable reuse options.“
However, in order to use the Hunt-Boyer mansion as a restaurant, several updates would need to be made to the interior of the building, which would cost the city much more, said Anne Brunette, the city’s property management coordinator.
“It would cost between $750,000 and $1 million to do the improving,” she added. “The other reuse option is a community events and information center.“
The building is ideal to house a community events and visitor’s information center because it is at a main intersection in downtown, Brunette said.
“[The mansion] is in an area that sees a lot of pedestrians along that route,” she added.
The one thing [Davis city staff] has noticed over the years is that the public is not always aware of which entity or organization is putting on specific events in and around downtown, Brunette said.
“Expected activities in the building would be to provide information about events, attractions and lodging in the community, maps for the community and campus, and a calendar of events,” Brunette added.
The visitor’s center would also have office space available for individual groups, she said. Staff members from UC Davis, the Davis Downtown Business Association, Farmer’s Market and Yolo County Visitors Bureau would hold offices here.
Ultimately, city staff recommended the events and visitor’s information center because it would be the most feasible and smallest fiscal impact on the city, she said.
While several councilmembers agreed with the resolution presented by the feasibility study, others had alternate opinions of how the Hunt-Boyer mansion should be reused.
Councilmember Sue Greenwald said she did not think the visitors‘ center was appropriate for the location and suggested a restaurant would be a better use. Lamar Heystek suggested the idea of a hotel or bed-and-breakfast establishment.
Mayor Ruth Asmundson said she believes that researching this location as a visitor’s center is the most feasible option at this point.
“I’m in favor of having the different [local] groups move in there with the least cost – for the redevelopment agency,” Asmundson said.
Making the mansion into a visitor’s center might make it easier to change the contract if city officials or the city council come up with a better use for the building in coming years, she added.
For now, city staff will move ahead with their research and planning to redevelop the Hunt-Boyer mansion into a visitor’s information center. However, the staff and city council will keep other options in mind as the project moves forward.
More information on the study is available on the city’s website at cityofdavis.org.
CAITLIN COBB can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org