The Santora Arts Building in downtown Santa Ana is for sale, Voice of OC has confirmed.
The confirmation came from Gil Marrerro, vice president with Voit Commercial Brokerage and broker for Santora owner Michael Harrah, who was showing the building to potential buyers when encountered by a Voice of OC reporter. Voice of OC maintains its headquarters in the building.
The asking price is $6.5 million, Marrerro said.
The news comes as no surprise to downtown artists, who have suspected that Harrah, one of downtown Santa Ana's largest landowners, is attempting to sell the building. OC Weekly's Gustavo Arellano recently reported Harrah is selling the Santora to help finance construction of a 37-story office tower near downtown known as One Broadway Plaza.
The artists have had a rocky relationship with Harrah and other downtown building owners in recent years as efforts have intensified to remake Artists Village, situated on Broadway between First and Third streets, into a nightlife destination. The artists feel they are being squeezed out of an area they helped create in favor of tenants who can pay more rent.
They have formed a group called United Artists of Santa Ana, and one of their priorities is preserving the Santora for the arts. The situation became even more complicated earlier this year when artist Alicia Rojas discovered an agreement between Harrah and the city of Santa Ana to dedicate 80 percent of the leasable space in the building to the arts. The agreement had expired in October.
Harrah said he will still honor the spirit of the agreement and has no plans to push the artists out. "It's going to stay an arts-focused type of building. It's 100 percent leased. We have leases there. The tenants are going to stay," Harrah said.
Marrerro said that he is trying to find buyers who will keep the artistic character of the building intact, and he said most of the leases are long-term, so potential buyers won't be able to kick them out.
“There's going to be very little change when all is said and done,” Marrerro said.
But the revelation of the possible sale has increased Rojas's fears that the artists' future in the area is looking dim. Rojas and the artists have appealed to the City Council with the hope of building a new partnership.
“What is the art walk becoming, a place for restaurants?” Rojas said. “How can we prevent this, how can we work together to have some kind of security for the leftover artists who are there.”