Housing / Land Use

Hollister Planning Commission approves plan for 12 apartments in old Pendergrass building

Units expected to be available in early 2023.
The windows will retain their historical feel, but will be more energy efficient. Photo by John Chadwell.
Floor plan for four apartments.
Floor plan for four apartments.
Exterior will have very little work done. Mainly the windows will be replaced.
Exterior will have very little work done. Mainly the windows will be replaced.

The Hollister Planning Commission unanimously approved on Sept. 23 a request for site and architectural plans for the construction of 12 residential units on the upper three floors of the former Pendergrass Hotel and Union Bank above an existing restaurant on the corner of Fifth and San Benito streets. Under the name of San Benito 500 LLC, the applicants’ request for a conditional use permit was approved for a variation in private and common open space requirements. The project is located within the Downtown Historic District and is exempt from California Environmental Quality Act inspection.

Tad Stern of consulting firm Kimley-Horn, which is assisting the Planning Department because of a shortage of planners, presented the project to the commission. He said the applicant wanted to rehabilitate and reuse the 14,000-square-foot building’s three upper floors and first-floor lobby. The restaurant on the bottom floor, where an upscale steak house is under construction, is not part of the project. The majority of the work will be on the interior of the building with only minor work, mainly windows, performed on the exterior in order to maintain the history of the structure that was built in 1928.

Stern said the 12 apartments would have four units on each floor, made up of two, 2-bedroom, 2-bath units, and two 1-bedroom, 1-bath units. He said upgrades in the lobby would include a new elevator and reconfigured walls around the stairwell and electrical room for code compliance.

Because the building is in the historic district, the city contracted for a conformance evaluation by a historic architect. He said the architect concluded that the design does conform with the secretary of the interior’s standards for rehabilitation. He said the project is consistent with the city’s general plan for commercial and mixed-use designation. 

Walt Oxley, who owns San Jose-based Walt Oxley Enterprises along with his wife and their son and daughter in-law are partners in the project. He said they were excited about the project and that several of their employees live in Hollister. He said his company has been involved in similar projects in the past and are looking forward to bringing some housing into the downtown area.

“We’re sensitive to the historic preservation of the building,” he said. “We like the older buildings, and this is a nice solid one with a nice history.”

He told the commission that all of the asbestos and other hazardous materials had already been removed and they have started demolition. He assured the commission the building was structurally sound, having brought in a concrete expert to examine it. He said he was aware of the faultline that runs beneath downtown and described the building, which is rebar enforced, as having “good bones.”

Oxley told BenitoLink he anticipates the apartments will be available in early 2023 and that it is too early to determine if they will be furnished or how much the rent will be. He said he and his family members bought the entire building and will lease the restaurant. He also said he is considering other possible projects in Hollister.

Early days 

According to an 1927 article by the Hollister Advance, J. R. Pendergrass purchased the property in December 1936 after a fire destroyed what was left of a few wooden shacks that had been prominent features of this corner for many years. 

“As Mayor of Hollister, Pendergrass was determined to build the finest building the community had ever seen, and he accomplished his goal in just six months at the cost of $136,000,” the article states.

It also states the first floor of the Pendergrass Hotel included the lobby (furnished with Chesterfields, occasional chairs, bridge lamps, and two Hartford Saxony rugs), the main dining room (finished with gold French panels and oak furniture), and a coffee shop. A modern kitchen serviced both areas.

The second floor included a private dining room and office space built to suit the tenants. Dentists, Doctors, and Optometrists occupied most of the space.

“Hotel rooms were established on the third and fourth floors, furnished to provide the finest in luxurious comfort that money could buy,” according to the article. 

It also states the rooms and corridors were covered with a high-grade heavy carpet with rose damask drapes. In addition to a bed, each room also included a dresser, rocking chair, straight back chair, wastepaper basket, ash tray, night stand, suitcase rack, and telephone desk. Each room had a bath with hot and cold water and a full-length mirror. 

The Pendergrass had 50 rooms and was considered fireproof. It was sold to the Hollister National Bank in 1937, according to news clippings provided by the San Benito County Historical Society.



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John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist with additional experience as a copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, "God's Club," was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]