By John Yantis for The Arizona Republic
A Buckeye native is turning an 80-year-old vacant downtown building into a sleek cafe, giving Monroe Avenue its first significant private redevelopment since the Great Recession took hold several years ago.
Cafe 25:35 takes the place of a once-seedy bar known as The Palms. The building has been vacant for nearly 20 years.
Buckeye officials hope the renovation will lead a renaissance in an area pockmarked with vacant and decaying buildings. Downtown has struggled to stay viable. Most of the town’s recent commercial development was built miles away from the district along Interstate 10, close to newer homes.
Private investment has not occurred downtown in at least six years, officials said. The largest recent development is Town Hall, which was built three years ago.
Tony Youngker, 34, owner of the building and cafe, purchased the building in June 2011 and demolition began in May. He’s planning a grand opening for mid-September.
The building is 221/2 feet wide and the ceiling between two walls dipped seven inches because of water damage.
Youngker had hoped to keep the original building trusses, but too many were broken. Instead, workers took photos, which were used to build trusses that matched the old ones. The new versions were hand-nailed together, like the originals, instead of machine-fastened.
There have been other challenges.
The building wasn’t wide enough to accommodate the walk-in refrigerator and freezer Youngker wanted. A plan to purchase property behind the cafe fizzled when Youngker and the landowner couldn’t agree on a price.
So Youngker is now leasing part of an alley from the town, that’s just wide enough to put in the refrigerator and a small patio.
The building was stripped to its bare bones.
Workers used pulverized walnut shells to blast more than an inch of plaster off the inside walls. Underneath were red bricks cast in 1930 at a company in Glendale
Pepto-Bismol pink paint was stripped off the walls. Glass-block walls were taken out of the front of the building. The entire back of the building was removed and plumbing was added.
Youngker, however, declined to say how much he spent on the project.
“The person that takes a project like this, you’ve got to make sure the end justifies the means, but there is a point that it is somewhat of an emotional thing,” he said.
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