DOUGLAS — Less than a month after being put up for sale, the historic Douglas Dispatch building located at 530 11th St. that for the past 118 years was home to Douglas’ lone newspaper has been sold.
Leo Gutierrez Sr. and his son, Leo Jr., of Douglas, the new owners of the building, have announced that they plan on renovating the 9,712-square-foot structure and turning it into rentable retail office spaces and possibly rental units on the second floor.
The Gutierrezes own Power Zone in addition to another building on G Avenue they recently renovated and have put up for lease. They own several apartment buildings in Douglas which are historical, Leo Sr. said. They are also the owners of what used to be the slaughter house for Douglas back in the early 1900s.
In March the Dispatch office on 11th Street was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and staff began working remotely. On May 27, the final stand-alone issue of the Douglas Dispatch was printed. A week later, Wick Communications, parent company of the Dispatch, debuted the Herald/Review Cochise County edition, with includes coverage of Douglas along with other communities in the county.
Dave DiPeso of DiPeso Realty in Benson was the realtor who sold the Dispatch building. On his website the building was listed for $59,000. He states the sale is currently in escrow and should be done late this week or early next.
DiPeso admitted he was surprised the building sold as fast as it did.
“There have been several empty buildings for sale downtown, one of those being right across the street. I just figured it would take a little longer to sell,” he said. “I think it sold (quickly) because it was priced right. The people that bought it seem like really nice people.”
Leo Sr., who was born in Nogales and has been living in Douglas since 1986, says he remembers how downtown used to be when he first came here.
“There was a lot of activity, a lot of people on the sidewalk shopping,” he said. “It’s very sad for me to see how downtown has become lately. Our idea is to try and rescue some of what we used to have so future generations can see it and enjoy it. We love Douglas and even though I’m not from here originally, I consider myself a Douglas native and this is my home.”
Leo Jr. is a realtor for the Douglas Realty Group. He said he is always keeping an eye out for properties that are for sale. He added he has always been intrigued by the Dispatch building and is aware of its history, so when the building was put up for sale he and his father decided to look into the purchase.
The father and son duo understand there are some problems with the building that need to be fixed because of its age. Their biggest concern is to try and stop any more deterioration.
“We’re going to fix it slowly and eventually bring it back to the way it was,” Leo Sr. said. “We’ve seen worse. We’re not exactly sure at the moment but we hope to turn it into a retail space and apartment rentals. As a family we have a passion to try and keep our history alive and keep these old buildings up and operating. Just because they are old doesn’t mean they are useless. They have a lot of history. Our goal is to keep it alive.”
The father and son say they take pride in being property owners in Douglas, a community they care deeply about.
“I feel like there is hope for this building and we can do a lot with it,” Leo Jr. said. “It’s just going to take some time. We do not have any outside investors. It’s just us. We’re here for the community and really passionate about Douglas. We want to see this community grow and possibly get back to what it once was.”