Irvine church bows out of Santora purchase
Irvine church bows out of Santora purchase
SANTA ANA – Newsong church of Irvine has announced that it is backing out of the purchase of the Santora Arts Building in Santa Ana.
"After extensive due diligence efforts, we were not able to come to terms with the seller of the Santora Arts Building regarding certain issues that we believe should be his responsibility to correct," said an online message. "As a result, we have determined that it is in the best interests of Newsong to terminate the escrow and continue exploring other options. This means that we are no longer pursuing the purchase of the Santora Arts building, but we will continue to love downtown Santa Ana in a myriad of ways and are open to new opportunities there."
United Artists of Santa Ana, which formed recently when the potential sale of the building was announced, said that it plans to form a steering committee to look into acquisition of the building.
Alicia Rojas, president of the group, said she hopes to see a committee form that would include the arts community, potential investors, city officials and representatives of the seller, developer Michael Harrah. She learned of Newsong's decision on Monday.
Harrah plans to build a 37-story office tower in Santa Ana called One Broadway Plaza and wants to sell the Santora, built in 1928 at 207 N. Broadway. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, has city historic designation and has various easements protecting its historic qualities.
"UASA will continue to partner with the City and other business and civic leaders to form a Santora Steering Committee that will seek an arts-friendly investor who will secure the historic building's future as an anchor for arts-based revitalization in the heart of Santa Ana," the group said in a prepared statement. "While we felt that the sale of the building to a religious group would not be a good fit for the Santora, we respect NewSong's leadership for understanding the validity of our concerns and working with UASA and the City to forge a meaningful agreement that would protect the nature of the Santora and the Artists Village."
One outcome of the proposed sale, she said, has been working with city officials and the community to discuss the future of the building.
"We hope to continue our partnership with the city and other business and civic leaders to form the Santora steering committee," she said in an interview. "Our big dream would be for the artists to own the building. Right now, we'll work on creating a steering committee with the city and civic leaders to make sure arts are in the forefront of the vision of Santa Ana."
She noted that the group has been invited to contribute ideas for a city strategic plan, and plans to do so. It's also continuing to work on plans for a public 84th anniversary celebration of the Santora on July 7.
She said she was grateful to the church's leadership for its willingness to meet with artists and to discuss a written agreement to ensure that artists would have around-the-clock access to the building, and would continue to be its primary tenants.
Artists have been concerned that the church wouldn't fit in with the Artists Village, and that it might censor artists or seek to impose its values on the arts community of the Santora. They've also pointed to a number of maintenance issues, such as water damage from air conditioning units and flooding problems during rainstorms.
In an open letter, the association said several weeks ago, "the presence of a church or other evangelical organization would seriously disrupt the harmony of the Artists Village and interfere with the artists' ability to pursue their livelihood and conduct business in peace."
When it announced plans to buy the Santora, Newsong expressed its longtime ties to Santa Ana, and the volunteer efforts of its members in the community.
It had been in escrow to buy the building for $6.2 million, saying that it saw the Santora as a hub of a Santa Ana ministry as well as for the arts.
"We sincerely gave this our very best shot and feel like the relationships we built in Santa Ana over the past 3 months made the ups and downs we've experienced more than worth it," the church said. "In the days ahead we will discuss what's next in more detail."
Rojas said she doesn't believe that Newsong's efforts were wasted, given the congregation's volunteer work in Santa Ana.
"Their heart is in Santa Ana," she said. "I wish them the best of luck in finding a home."
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