.Pajaro Valley Arts Porter Building Deal Inches Closer

Nonprofit plans to transform the historic Watsonville building into a refuge for local artists

A deal between Watsonville and Pajaro Valley Arts for the sale of the historic Porter Building cleared one of the few remaining hurdles on Monday afternoon.

The city approved a minor land division that will allow the century-old building at 280 Main St. to be sold to the local arts organization. The move was needed because the land the Porter Building sits on was part of the same 2.41-acre parcel as the adjacent city-owned youth center and offices.

PV Arts, a nonprofit established in 1984, plans to turn the two-story, 15,000 square-foot building into a refuge for local artists with gallery exhibits, retail art space and a multipurpose room for performances, meetings, events, workshops and additional special exhibitions. The organization would also create several classrooms for seniors and young people and artists’ studios.

The organization has been in talks with the city about the building since it first presented its plan in late 2020. Negotiations were stalled at various times but picked back up last year.

PV Arts Board President Trina Coffman-Gomez said Wednesday that negotiations were still ongoing but that the two parties were only separated by “small details.” A completed agreement will likely come before the Watsonville City Council in the coming weeks.

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It would mark the first time in more than a year that the council would publicly discuss the Porter Building—the discussions around the potential sale have all occurred in closed sessions.

“We’re getting closer and closer,” Coffman-Gomez said. “It’s exciting. But we want to make sure that we’re getting everything right.”

Watsonville Mayor Ari Parker said that she could not talk about the specifics of the potential sale of the Porter Building because of the ongoing negotiations. 

“Watsonville is making sure that we are working diligently in supporting PV Arts to meet their funding and closing deadlines and at the same time doing our due diligence in supporting the whole city of Watsonville,” she wrote in an email. 

The purchase of the building would be a significant move for the small but influential nonprofit. It operates out of a city-owned building on Sudden Street that it rents for $1 a year. But its programming and reach have expanded beyond Watsonville and the Pajaro Valley over the past few years.

It is not yet clear what the asking price for the building will be. Still, Coffman-Gomez says PV Arts, which in 2019 brought in a little more than $200,000 in total revenues, has the financial fortitude to purchase the building and make the renovations needed to make its vision a reality.

“Everybody is on board and is excited about this movement,” Coffman-Gomez said. “Of course, they’re nervous, which is acceptable because it’s a pretty big deal to take on, but I think we’re up for the challenge. We have the support not only from this community, the council and the arts. The time is good right now for this community to have this move forward.”

If the sale is approved, it would be another positive development for the arts community in South County. The city recently approved plans from Arts Council Santa Cruz County to establish a performing arts studio down the street from the Porter Building and passed a development fee to fund public art projects.

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