PAROWAN — Eight essays were submitted to the Parowan City Office Thursday, each from an eager resident hoping to win a chance to purchase the city’s Rufus Building for only $1. The city is auctioning the building to someone with a transformative business idea to revamp an antiquated establishment ripe with historical value and breathe new life into the community.
“We actually have a pretty good mix of new kinds of visions, new business ideas,” Parowan City Manager Shayne Scott said. “And there are a couple of — two or three — existing businesses that would have probably a good chance of being successful, so I guess there’s probably a lot to talk about.”
Since there were eight entries submitted, the decision will be much more difficult than originally anticipated, Scott said. Instead of picking the best idea, he said, the judging will take place in stages.
The Economic Development Committee has developed a point system to rate the ideas based on specific criteria, Scott said. Questions they are considering include three:
- What is this business’ likelihood of success?
- Does the business fit in with the community?
- Are there financial benefits and other benefits to this business?
One example Scott gave was an artist studio. While the studio itself might create a job or two that would financially bolster the community, he said, it would also offer additional benefits to the community by giving residents and visitors an outlet to share and create art.
Once the eight entries have been narrowed down to three finalists, Scott said, the next step will be to have a one-on-one interview with each of the entrants to discuss in-depth how they would make their vision come to life.
From there, a winner will be selected, he said. The process won’t be overnight, Scott said, but he hopes there will be a final winner declared by the end of the year.
Since 1938, the Rufus Building and the property it sits on have changed hands several times, finally landing with the city through two transfers, one in 1996 and the other in 2014.
Though the Parowan Assessor’s Office has no record of exactly when the Rufus Building was erected, records refer to it being built before 1900, meaning that for at least 38 years in the early part of the 20th century, the history of the Rufus Building is a mystery.
The earliest records on file begin when the ownership title transferred from Richard M. Fenton and Catherine Fenton in 1938, according to a title search done by Cedar Title Company. At that time, Melita B. Fenton took ownership of the property.
The building stayed in the family, with some family transfers and family confirming title in Melita Fenton until 1976, according to title records.
Through the decades, the Rufus building operated as a drug store for the most part, Heather Shurtleff with the Parowan City Office said in an email to Scott.
“The Rufus building was run, possibly, by Patrick Fenton (Melita’s son) for a period of time as a pool hall somewhere around 1943,” Shurtleff wrote. Shurtleff learned this, she said, after talking to one of the elders in the community who grew up in Parowan.
Eventually, the drug store moved across the street to the very spot the current drug store is located, Shurtleff said, and the Rufus building once again changed hands, this time to its namesake Rufus Development.
For the next 20 years, the building became little more than a storage facility for the new owner, who had also purchased the Orton apartment building that neighbored the old drug store, most recent Rufus Building owner, Tom Pierce, said.
“He rented out rooms at the Orton for many years,” Pierce said, “and used the Rufus building for storage and a few garage sales.”
The property that the old building resides on used to be larger than what it is today, according to title records. The 1996 manifestation of Leigh’s “Rufus” company transferred a portion of the property to Parowan City, but he held onto the building until 2000 when Paul Carroll bought it and the Orton apartments.
The Rufus Building continued to fall into disrepair as the years wore on, Pierce said.
“(Carroll) also used the Rufus building for storage — the foundation being in such bad shape,” Pierce said. “It was pretty much (un)inhabitable.”
Pierce said he, Leigh and Carroll were all friends. After coming into some money in 2010, Pierce said, he bought the building from Carroll.
“I had planned on refurbishing the building,” he said, “but I had moved to the central coast of California to retire. I did some work on the building, realizing that it would need extensive foundation work. The city wanted me to tear it down.”
The front of the Rufus Building was what attracted him to the purchase, Pierce said, and the thought of it being torn down compelled him to hold onto the property for a few years before finally gifting it to the City of Parowan in 2014 in exchange for a tax break.
“I have always loved its looks,” he said. “It turn (sic) out that it is the oldest building on Parowan’s Main Street.”
The County Assessor’s Office was unable to verify if the Rufus Building is, in fact, the oldest building on Main Street because their records do not date back that far. The best they could do was provide a document that was filled out by an assessor in the ’70s that calculated the building was built before the turn of the century.
The Economic Development Committee made the decision to hold an essay contest as part of the $1 auction, Scott said, to put the Rufus Building into the hands of someone who would do something fantastic with it.
“It’s at the corner of Center and Main, as you know,” he said, “and so it’s at the center of a very prominent place in our community.”
It is their hope, he said, that they can get the building into the hands of an entrepreneur with a good business idea or project, someone who might think outside of the box and figure out what could be done with the building.
City officials were not looking for in-depth plans, Scott said, but rather a short and simple essay that illustrates the crux of their idea so the committee can gain a good understanding of the overall concept.
“So, what we are looking for is just an idea — a vision,” he said, “not necessarily a business plan. If people have those, we would certainly want to see them, but we’re really looking for an idea that’s something different, something out of the box. …”
Out of the box was what the city manager received in the eight entries turned in Thursday.
“We had one submission that was just a rendering of the building — so like an artist’s rendering,” Scott said. “We had another that was a submission via video and that was really interesting. We had others that were write-ups about different ideas that people want to do, so I believe this will be very exciting as we whittle down the winner.”
When people ask him what he would like to see in the Rufus Building, Scott said, he tells them he has no idea — just that he would like to see something successful that benefits the community.
“It’s going to be so hard (to choose),” he said. “I’m feeling terrible, because six or seven of these are amazing ideas and amazing visions, and I want them all to do what they want to do and I can’t imagine having to choose one.”
More information is available at the City of Parowan website.
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