BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – The character of downtown Bakersfield continues to change, little by little, building by building: apartments and townhouses are moving to where businesses and offices used to be. The latest example: the Californian Bakersfield building, which until a few years ago housed everyday life for decades.

Harrell Holdings, which evolved from the company that owned the California Bakersfield newspaper for more than a century, is considering the idea of ​​transforming its 800 square foot annex – the small brick building next to the Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce – in an AirBnB, available for rentals of up to 13 days at a time.

If this plan works, Harrell Holdings will explore the possibility of adding one and two bedroom apartments on the second and third floors of the 95-year-old, 55,000-square-foot four-story structure. It would allow the leases of its commercial tenants, currently about 25, to phase out.

Gizel Bermudez, vice chairman of Harrell Holdings, said things were in the early planning stages.

“We’ve met with an architect and a planning company, so we’re in the very early stages,” she said. “We’re thinking somewhere between the smallest space being 500 square feet up to about maybe about 1500 square feet.”

The idea is very promising – and a significant obstacle.

On the plus side, the timing is good. Residential development is taking off around the city center. Sage Properties, owner of 17th Place Eastchester Townhouses, owns a market-priced apartment building called the Cue taking shape at 18th and Q streets, and another Sage project, 918 in Eastchester, on the site of the old Bakersfield Orphanage (and later the Sinaloa Restaurant), is expected to start construction in the coming months.

The old Greyhound Bus Terminal, also located at 18, is also slated to become apartments at some point.

The presence of Bitwise Industries, a tech company and digital academy just across H Street from the California building, can’t hurt either.

But here’s the obstacle – the city currently bans short-term rentals such as AirBnBs. Harrell Holdings will have to convince the city that such a project makes sense at the annex, which was built at the same time that the main newspaper building was built – 1926 – as a place for ladies to relax and cool off. during shopping trips in the heat of Bakersfield. .

Over the years, the newspaper’s editorial board and board of directors have met in the annex, occasionally to interview candidates for governor or president.

Now, if the city allows it, that would serve a very different purpose.

City councilor Andrae Gonzales, whose neighborhood includes the city center, told 17 News he liked the idea, noting in a text message that in 2017 city council set a goal of doubling the population downtown by 2030.

It’s early in the process, so nothing is certain. But if the company manages to convince the city of the merits of its project, who knows? This central business district of this place we live in will have a considerably different feel.

1707 Eye Street has character, it has a history, it has a location, and one of these days, if all goes according to plan, it could be a place to feel at home too.

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