FREMONT -- Where preservationists see a storied 109-year-old building considered one of Fremont's landmarks, city leaders see an empty, seismically unsafe structure that should be removed from the historic buildings list and sold because it has lost any historical value.
That 5-year-long debate over a small Mission San Jose District building on a quarter-acre lot will continue for the foreseeable future, as Fremont's Historical Architectural Review Board last week asked city staffers for more information before deciding the issue.
City planners say they might deliver that report in the next month or two to the review board.
David Price, the board's chairman, noted that fellow board members first asked city staffers for that information five years ago and still are waiting for it.
"I heard more historical analysis in the past 20 minutes than I've heard from staff since 2009," Price said last week.
The building -- a two-story, wood-frame structure at 43327 Mission Blvd. -- was constructed in 1905, serving as a horse stable for two decades.
In the past 90 years, however, the property's appearance has drastically changed. It has been used as a residence and for several types of businesses, including an auto mechanic's shop and a shoe store.
In 1970, Tri-City historians added the building to the Fremont Register of Historic Resources, a list that now has about 150 properties, said city leaders, who are asking that the structure be removed from the Historic Resources list.
A historical analysis completed in 2007 found that the property met no criteria "to warrant its listing as a historical resource," city staffers say.
"Some buildings had historical analysis in support of it remaining on the registry," said David Wage, a city planner. "Some have been found to lack historical significance. This one would be one of the latter."
Perhaps the property's greatest significance stems from being a former home of Olive Hyde, a philanthropist, activist and property owner who, for decades, helped shape and preserve Mission San Jose's rural, small-town spirit. Today, a Fremont gallery and cultural arts organization are named after her.
Hyde moved into the building in 1958, running an antique shop in the front while living in the back. She donated the structure to Fremont in 1964 with instructions that it be used for educational, cultural or recreational purposes for as long as the city owns it, according to a city report. But the agreement apparently was not binding, as "there are no restrictions on the deed that precluded the future sale of the property," the report states.
The city ran a preschool there until closing it in 2002 because it needed seismic retrofitting. It has been vacant since. The City Council last fall instructed staffers to sell it, according to a city report.
One review board member said he agrees with that finding and likely will vote to strip the site of its historic designation. The "plain 1940s building" is costing the city money while it remains unused, said Theodore Bresler.
"As a taxpayer, I resent that this state of affairs has continued for 12 years, and we have nothing to show for it," Bresler said. "I think (its) historical significance has largely vanished ... and keeping it empty for years to come would be a travesty,"
Tri-City historians such as Al Minard -- board member of the Washington Township Historical Society -- have urged the review board to preserve the structure.
"This building is a contributing resource ... it's important to the city and to the Mission San Jose district, which is probably the most historic area in all of Alameda County," Minard said. "We've lost too many historical buildings in Fremont; we can't afford to lose anymore."
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.