Malt House's future up in the air ahead of vote

Is the Malt House here to stay?

The Malt House has stood on Zarzamora Street since 1949. On Wednesday, the Historic Design and Review Commission could decide to let it be torn down.

The cafe's owner, Ivan Gonzalez, says in a letter to the HDRC that the business has seen years of financial decline. 

"We have determined that we can no longer continue operations at the Malt House," the letter reads. "My family and our dedicated employees have tried to make it work by all means possible, but due to falling revenue and many structural issues with the aged building, the Malt House closed it's doors earlier this year."

The letter goes on to say that the family's only option is to sell the property. 

For that to happen, though, the Malt House must come down. At least, that's what lawyers for convenience store chain 7-11 say in their own letter to the HDRC:

"The offer to purchase is contingent upon demolition of the existing structure," it says. 

But, west-side residents are still trying to save the structure. It was designated historic in 2013, not so much because of the building itself, but because of what happened inside it. 

"It was a place that people felt comfortable. It was a place you went after football games or you went for birthdays or you went after church on Sundays. It melded all the stories of how people feel. The sentiment of the community is in that building itself," cultural historian Tomas Ybarra-Frausto said.

Ybarra Frausto added that the building is historically significant for three reasons: For one, it represents a time when women were joining the workforce en masse. Ybarro-Frausto said that women on the west side would stop at the Malt House after work to pick up premade meals for their families. 

Second, Ybarra-Frausto says it blended Anglo and Mexican-American cultures through food.

Finally, he said that it was one of the important drive-ins on the west side, and while the building might not be architecturally significant, the signage is.

"It has a sign that's the kind of sign of that particular period, the neon signs, that we're really losing," he said.

Lifelong west-side resident Rachel Delgado is hopeful for some sort of compromise.

"Because we have to think of the owner and we have to think of the community that loves it," she said. "I realize the owner can't keep up, he's having a hardship with it, but it's so much a part of the community that the community also owns it."

The HDRC vote is Tuesday at 3 p.m. and it's open to the public.

(© 2016 KENS)


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