PITTSBURG -- A historic post office building in Old Town Pittsburg that has been vacant for many years is slated to become an office for a real estate investment firm.

The city council voted 4-to-1 this month to approve a zoning change for Property Upsurge to use the ground floor of the building it owns at 501 Railroad Ave. as office space instead of a restaurant, cafe or storefront that draws walk-in customers.

Zoning regulations established in 2006 require that the ground-floor spaces in buildings along the stretch of Railroad Avenue in Old Town be used for businesses such as restaurants, cafes or storefronts to help draw pedestrian traffic into those places. Areas above, below and behind ground-floor spaces can be occupied by offices and other businesses that do not attract walk-in customers.

The 4,550-square-foot building was built in 1935 and served as a post office until 1970, when a new post office opened at 835 Railroad Ave. Over the years, the building has been used for offices, but it has been vacant for many years.

Mayor Nancy Parent cast the no vote, saying that a vote at this time was "putting the cart before the horse" in that planners are developing new guidelines to address future requests made by businesses that want to occupy vacant ground-floor locations.

"If the council is going to look at redoing the entire area in terms of what the zoning should be on Railroad Avenue, this should come after that."


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In voting for the zoning change, Vice Mayor Sal Evola said: "I do not feel the decision here is precedent setting because we have directed staff to look at a policy on a going-forward basis of how we would deal with this in the future," he said.

Property Upsurge, which is located in Antioch, uses money it gets from investors to buy houses in East County that are in foreclosure, then fixes them up and rents them out to tenants before eventually selling the properties when the timing is right for a price gain.

Having his business on Railroad Avenue would bring more people to downtown, Yaniv Benaroya, co-owner of Property Upsurge, told council members. Tenants come in to pay rent on houses and investors would stop by, he said.

"This type of activity will only help the downtown market," Benaroya said. "This will be a very positive thing for the city and also solve the problem of occupying a vacant building."

Property Upsurge had initially wanted to open a separate business, an alcohol-only tavern that would that would offer microbrews, high-end cocktails and live music in the front of the building, and use the back part to serve as office space for Property Upsurge.

That proposal was rejected by the Planning Commission after several local residents spoke out against it at a public hearing in January. Property Upsurge then submitted a proposal to use the building only as office space. In March, the Planning Commission recommended approval of that proposal to the city council.

Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.