Former Security Bank building goes up for auction

FRESNO, Calif.

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The former Security Bank Building was a symbol of downtown revitalization just a few years ago. Now, its struggles come as city council members question whether the city is taking the right approach to revitalization.

The building is a Fresno icon and its antenna is the city's highest point, but the skyscraper is days away from hitting rock bottom.

A lofty goal brought Saundra King to Fresno's highest point. Over the last 17 years, she's transformed the former Security Bank Building into homes for upscale living, and upscale businesses in downtown.

"It's been a lot of blood, sweat, and tears," she said. "I've really enjoyed this building. It's a wonderful building."

Just two years after it became a symbol for downtown revitalization, the prospects are looking down for the building, now known as Fresno Pacific Towers.

The building is assessed at a value of $2.7 million, but King and her family owe about $5 million, and it's in foreclosure. The auction is scheduled for Nov. 18.

"I do expect there will be folks interested in purchasing that building and hopefully continuing the vision Saundra set out," said Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin.

Swearengin made downtown revitalization part of her platform when she campaigned for the job. When she took over at City Hall, she created a department to specifically focus on downtown.

But after millions of dollars in city spending on isolated successes like the baseball stadium, and long-stalled projects like the proposed Forest City development south of the stadium, some city council members are asking whether the city should be funding revitalization.

"This is going to be a private sector-driven endeavor to revitalize downtown," said council member Andreas Borgeas. "Markets will indicate what it can bear."

The market hasn't been helpful for Fresno Pacific Towers. Property values crashed just after King started building lofts and she hasn't sold a single one. But she says Swearengin has cleared a path for projects like hers to finally work.

"The directors of her departments know she's interested in revitalizing downtown," King said. "All of the hurdles seem to have gone away."

Unfortunately for King, City Hall's new view may have come too late.

Action News first talked to King about her financial troubles two months ago and she was already on the hunt for new investors.

She's gotten $3 million in commitments, but with just 13 days until auction, she still needs $2 million more.

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