Thursday, July 5, 2012
Developer Doug Wiele uses the Cooper Molera adobe’s garden as an office, spreading out on benches when he’s in town working on one of several Monterey projects.
Wiele and his company, Foothill Partners, are eying Cooper Molera as their next downtown Monterey venture; by August, he expects to have a proposal to transform the 19th-century adobe into a commercial space that would draw more visitors.
While some preservationists bristle at the idea of commercializing a historic resource, the decision is up to the owner, Washington, D.C.-based National Trust for Historic Preservation, which already leases the adjacent lot to Foothill for its Trader Joe’s parking.
Wiele approached the trust in 2010 about buying or leasing Cooper Molera. “Somebody needs to spend some money there, and they don’t have any,” he says, citing barns so decayed they’re off-limits to the public.
The trust contracts with State Parks to maintain the property, and State Parks partners with nonprofit Monterey State Historic Park Association, which manages the store and hosts events.
“If the Trust decides to go in a different direction, we really don’t have a say,” says Mat Fuzie, the State Parks’ Monterey superintendent. But he’s excited about possibly turning the adobe into a money-maker. State Parks operates Cooper Molera and 12 other downtown adobes at an annual loss of about $1.5 million.
The trust declined an interview for this story and responded only with a brief statement. “We’re examining a mix of for-profit and nonprofit options,” senior director Cindi Malinick emailed.
Detractors in MSHPA and State Parks would speak only off the record for fear of reprisal, but MSHPA co-president Jan Houser says the group supports State Parks. “We’re totally on the same page, “ she says.