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Old city hall restored from the ashes

Antonio Sierra

East Oregonian

Published on March 6, 2018 6:12PM

Staff photo by E.J. HarrisBlue sky and clouds are reflected in the new windows on the top floor of the old city hall building Monday in Pendleton.

Staff photo by E.J. HarrisBlue sky and clouds are reflected in the new windows on the top floor of the old city hall building Monday in Pendleton.

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Staff photo by E.J. HarrisConstruction on the interior of the old city hall building is underway now that a new roof and windows have been installed.

Staff photo by E.J. HarrisConstruction on the interior of the old city hall building is underway now that a new roof and windows have been installed.

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The Quezadas have had a busy 2018.

Multiple members of the family are working on two separate renovation projects in downtown Pendleton — old city hall at 34 S.E. Dorion Ave. and Sister’s Cafe at 308 S. Main St. — in an attempt to restore the buildings to their prior appearances.

With city money invested in both projects, the family and its contractor are reporting progress on both fronts.


Old city hall


There are still some visible scorch marks, but old city hall is starting to resemble the building it was in the years leading up to July 21, 2015.

On that day, an explosion caused by homemade fireworks killed Eduardo Quezada and caused the structure to catch fire, destroying much of the roof and top-floor windows and scarring the brick work.

Two-and-a-half years later, contractor Jamie Stone delivered a quick tour through old city hall.

Stepping around some of the construction equipment and materials scattered around the floor, he showed the new windows and frames that were installed on the second floor.

Less work has been done on the intact ground-floor windows, which was made evident by a drop in temperature as Stone descended the interior stairs.

“Sometimes, I come in here and I’m like, ‘Holy crap, it’s colder in here than it is outside,’” he said.

While the frames will likely remain, Stone said new, energy-efficient windows will replace the current panes.

He said the exterior will also be repainted soon and the next steps will include running power and gas back into the building.

The Quezadas are on a tight schedule to repair and restore the building because, unlike other private sector projects, they’re on a city-mandated timeline.

City attorney Nancy Kerns said the Quezadas met their first benchmark, having every window space facing the street filled with glass by Feb. 15. The family will have to do the same for all windows facing the alleyway by March 15 and have the building in good enough shape to receive a certificate of occupancy from the city by Sept. 1.

If the owners miss a deadline, the city can fine them, foreclose on a lien taken out on the property, or both.

The current timeline is a result of a protracted battle between the Quezadas and the city throughout most of 2017.

When the family failed to put a new roof on the building during a heavy winter, the Pendleton City Council began assessing fines against the property in early January.

The Quezadas contested the fines in municipal court, and the case was set to head to trial before the two sides reached a settlement, including the timeline, in August. In December, the Pendleton Development Commission agreed to grant $33,433 to the Quezadas for the broken windows.

Diana Quezada, the daughter of property owner Jose Quezada and one of the family members leading the restoration effort, said she expects the project to get done on time.

Quezada said she still intends to turn old city hall into a boutique hotel.

Charles Denight, the associate director of the Pendleton Development Commission, said he was glad the Quezadas agreed to use wood-paneled windows, which are in line with the building’s historical character.

Denight said this move will allow the family to apply for a grant from the commission’s second story program and tax credits from the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office.


Sister’s Cafe


The Sister’s second story is visible from old city hall’s second floor and Stone is handling both restoration projects.

The front exterior of Sister’s has been draped in a tarp for the past several months as workers remove the stucco façade and glass blocks to reveal the historic brick and arched windows underneath.

Stone said the brick work on the façade will start soon and he expects the project to be done by Memorial Day.

The development commission gave owner Rosemary Ramirez, the sister of Diana Quezada, a $126,197 façade grant for the project, but Ramirez’s ambitions don’t end there.

Denight said he and Ramirez have discussed developing the Sister’s second floor into apartments or a boutique hotel.

Ramirez could not be reached for comment.

Denight said he was glad to see that Ramirez was intent on developing her second floor, a recent focus of the commission.

He said that Sister’s Cafe and its facility — the Robinson building — are a part of a group of historic buildings that the commission is working with to spur second story development. The rest of the group includes the Masonic Temple (Great Pacific Wine & Coffee Co.), the Martin Building (Zimmerman & Co. True Value Hardware), LaFontaine Building (Pendleton Music Co.), the Columbia Hotel (Joe’s Fiesta Mexican Restaurant) and the Woodmen of the World Building (Pioneer Title).

The commission has already commissioned designs for each space and is in the process of soliciting estimates from local contractors.

Once the estimates are done, Denight said the commission will look to see who’s ready to start development.

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Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.



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