First Taco Bell building may be demolished

DOWNEY -- The building that housed the world's first Taco Bell is under "imminent threat of demolition," according to the Downey Conservancy, a Downey-based preservation group. Although Downey is more famously recognized as the site of the oldest operating location for the world’s largest hamburger chain, it is Taco Bell that built its very first location within the city.  The building, located at 7112 Firestone Blvd, was opened by founder Glen Bell in March 1962.

Why did Taco Bell’s founder, and one of the most famous names in fast food, choose Downey?  According to the book, Taco Titan: The Glen Bell Story, “The location was in a growth area near a middle-class neighborhood, on a street with good traffic and numerous small businesses.”

For a number of years, the former Taco Bell building was the location of an independent fast food restaurant, Seafood and Tacos Raul.  This latter restaurant closed at the end of December, and the now-vacant building was subsequently fenced off.

"As there is no current plan for the building’s continued use, its status is considered to be endangered," the Conservancy said.

In a news release, the Conservancy said it has contacted not only the Taco Bell corporation, but other firms with a history of success in the adaptive reuse of important buildings.

"The organization recognizes that the building’s current location may not be the best for its future and, as such, is also looking at opportunities to relocate the former Taco Bell to another site within the city," the Conservancy said. "With the current interest in adding additional first class hotel rooms within the city, for example, consideration could be given to using the historic building as a tourism or business-to-business information center.

"The National Trust for Historic Preservation has an ongoing program called 'This Place Matters.'  Those involved in the preservation of historic sites know that once an important building is lost, it’s gone forever.  This community has shown, in cases such as Harvey’s (now, Bob’s Big Boy) Broiler and the oldest operating Mc Donald’s, that these places matter. The Downey Conservancy hopes that, in the case of the original Taco Bell building, once again, “this place matters.”

To learn more about The Downey Conservancy,  visit thedowneyconservancy.org or call (562) 869-4900.