DOWNEY - After more than five years of ownership, Oscar and Carmen Rivera are ready to champion the next chapter in the history of the Rives Mansion."We really want it to be a part of the community," said Carmen while walking along the home's front porch. "It should be a hall for special occasions, a place where people in the community can come and make memories…maybe a wedding chapel." But with local investors wary of new redevelopment projects, city officials hesitant to invest in the structure and residents divided on how the home should be used, reinventing the mansion may be harder than the Rivera family thinks. The husband and wife real estate team, who purchased the historic home in 2005 for $1.7 million, is now hoping to turn the nearly 100-year-old residence into a commercial property that can be utilized for a variety of events both artistic and cultural. Kirk Cartozian, real estate broker, land use consultant and former Downey councilman, is currently listing the home, promoting it as a great opportunity to solidify the Rives Mansion as an intricate part of Downey's history and future. "Long story short, everyone would love to see it go back to its grandeur," said Cartozian. "It's the most famous house in Downey - but it's my number one priority to make sure we get a long-term sustainable plan from someone who will use the property…as a steakhouse, wedding chapel, assembly or banquet hall. That would be complimentary and I think residents would get around that." Since placing his 'for lease' sign in the mansion's front yard several weeks ago, Cartozian says he's received dozens of calls, but has yet to hear any serious offers from investors or businesses looking to lease the home and convert it into a profitable establishment. "There's no asking price, no number," Cartozian said. "The Riveras will entertain anything as long as they're not in the red...it depends, they might agree to a lower amount if it includes a long-term contract." Though it may take possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars to prep the residence to accommodate specific ventures, Cartozian insists that investing in the Rives Mansion, located at the corner of Third Street and Paramount Boulevard, is still a worthwhile venue. "There are many overarching challenges…the city is going to look at it pretty seriously and they should," he said. "The Rives Mansion is at a crossroads, it requires a plan, and it's my job to make sure it's not set up to fail. There should be a creative spirit there - something that inspires people, and makes people want to experience it. That'll determine the overall success." In September, the Rives Mansion, along with several key redevelopment sites, became a part of the downtown district, which was extended by the City Council under the Downtown Specific Plan. The new zoning code allows the mansion, built in 1911 for Downey pioneer James Rives, to expand its range of uses. Under the amended code, the residential property can now also be used as a cultural center, office facility or banquet hall. Before acquiring the property, Oscar and Carmen Rivera, natives of Obregon City, Sonora, Mexico and owners of Casa Blanca Realty, originally hoped to open a real estate center inside home. "Then the housing market collapsed - so it made no sense to get into that," Rivera said. "We hoped the city would buy it, but they're very conservative when it comes to spending. Now, we just want to help everyone by offering the home back to the community." Similarly, Cartozian remains positive that the Riveras, who reside in La Habra Heights, will find a reliable tenant in the next three to six months. "Name me a better place in Southern California where you can bring that creative spirit of possibilities," Cartozian said. "The Rives Mansion is a gateway to the downtown - anyone and everyone will want to give it a chance. There's a willingness to support it. People want to see it succeed, it's something everyone can be proud of."
********** Published: December 16, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 35