ANTIOCH -- Barring any last-minute complications from the state, a group of local preservationists will soon be the owner of a historic fixer-upper.
After nearly four years of negotiations, the nonprofit Friends of the Roswell Butler Hard House last week reached a sales and purchase agreement with the City Council, allowing it to acquire the 143-year-old brick building so that it can start cleaning and renovating the dilapidated property.
"This was a big one; we've been working on this for a while," Friends president David Brink said.
The deed agreement could proceed in late October, depending on whether there are any objections from the state's Department of Finance because the Hard House was formally owned by Antioch's redevelopment agency, which was disbanded along with other redevelopment agencies across the state as part of a state law enacted last year.
The state has raised questions about the value of assets that cities take control of and whether a long-range property-management plan is needed.
Elizabeth Rimbault, the group's secretary, believes the state won't object because two appraisers and the city say the building has negligible value.
The city's oversight committee for redevelopment assets will consider the matter next month.
"It would only become an asset if it is restored," Rimbault said. "The committee looked at it before and didn't have a problem with the transfer with it. This is throwing in
Antioch bought the Hard House, recognized by the state and federal registries of historic buildings, in 1979 but has done little to restore it to its 19th-century condition. It was home of Antioch's first mayor, Roswell Butler Hard, and served as the original meeting place for officials when Antioch became Contra Costa County's first incorporated city.
The Friends' restoration plan calls for it to be substantially renovated into a museum and public gathering place in five years.
Antioch leaders made some final adjustments to the contract at the July 24 meeting, including insisting that Antioch retain the right to take back the property for only seven years or until it becomes operational, whichever comes first -- mainly as a safeguard in case the group runs into financial snags or dissolves.
City leaders support the group's effort.
"This is worth saving, in my mind," Mayor Jim Davis said.
Brink says the nonprofit group is eager to get started.
The group has already received about $3,000 in donations, while others have said they would commit about $1,500, Rimbault said.
"We're not asking for anything for free. We're paying as we go," Rimbault said.
A contractor has volunteered to tear down the back portion of the home that was added in 1923.
While waiting for the state's 60-day review, Rimbault said work will proceed to draft formal legal maps and get them approved by the city, along with a $1,500 deposit.
The group will also start fundraising, she said.
"It looks like a lot of people are encouraged by what was happened so far. I think we're making real progress already," Brink said.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.