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Visalia: Bringing Art Deco Gem Back To Life

January 20,2017-

courthouse 2017-01-01 at 9.11.30 AMBuilt in 1935 the Visalia Courthouse annex building was funded by the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA).

Along with the Visalia Post Office, built around the same time,the Court Street courthouse in Downtown Visalia is considered an Art Deco architectural gem.

Still owned by the County the mostly forgotten 3-story building has stood vacant for decades. Known for while as “the welfare building” its condition is not getting any better after years of neglect.

Now newly installed County Supervisor Amy Shuklian, just off the Visalia City Council after nine years, is working with fellow council member Greg Collins on a plan to organize a restoration effort to put the landmark back into use.

Both see the future of the building likely in private hands – not government. But government can help make it happen.

“Greg and I have been talking about putting it on the market to see if a Downtown developer or office user would bring it back to life” says Shuklian.

Shuklian has already visited with the County CAO to get the ball rolling on a plan that would have the County first see if they want to reuse the building or not and gauge the willingness to pay for it.

But she says she knows from past studies that the 80-year old building has problems including ADA and asbestos issues.

Collins suggests the County has not kept the building up and thinks maybe the City of Visalia could take a crack at short term ownership of the property to foster restoration and reuse, probably through a marketing effort to a private user as is done in many Downtown districts.

Sounding a theme she wants to emphasize as she becomes a member of the Board of Supervisors Shuklian adds “ We need to see more cooperative efforts between the County and the City to get things done.” High on her list is tackling the homeless issue – also a top concern for newly installed Visalia Mayor Warren Gubler.

That new cooperation could start with this project.

“It’s a beautiful historical building” notes Shuklian and could be a source of pride again for Visalians.

The old building’s architect was Ernest J Kump and the contractor was Frank J Reilly.

PWA Moderne is an architectural style of many buildings in the United States completed between 1933 and 1944, during and shortly after the Great Depression as part of relief projects sponsored by the Public Works Administration (PWA) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

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