Downtown retail, office proposal moves forward in Atascadero

City Council unanimously approves 1.5-acre project designed to complement Colony Square

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comAugust 13, 2013 

A new commercial development positioned to improve the look of downtown Atascadero was unanimously approved by city leaders Tuesday.

City planners touted the project, which includes shops, eateries and offices, saying it would generate new sales tax revenue for the city and help existing businesses with foot traffic.

It’s also slated to complement nearby Colony Square’s shops and movie theater — making for a more cohesive downtown.

“I think this is one of the most viable projects for the city of Atascadero,” Councilman Bob Kelley said.

The La Plaza Downtown Retail Center, named for the area’s use as a marketplace in the city’s early days, stretches 1.5 acres from 6322 through 6500 El Camino Real. The parcel across from The Carlton Hotel and Sunken Gardens includes the former burned-out site of North County Christian School’s thrift store.

The project calls for 26,500 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space in three two-story buildings broken up by a pedestrian plaza, fountains and landscaping. It also includes 78 off-street parking spaces in the rear and a second-level restaurant terrace looking over downtown. The property owner is Ben Hoff, and Atascadero firm Wysong Construction is proposing the project.

The City Council has been eager to build something at the site, previously identifying it as a “priority economic development hot spot” and drawing up an incentive program for developers. Fee waivers and giving up Atascadero Mall as a city road for project access are part of such incentives.

The council expressed very few concerns with the development Tuesday, mostly focusing on the height restriction for a 60-foot freeway sign that would advertise shop names. The council waived the restriction until highway visibility tests could go before the city’s Design Review Committee. 

Councilwoman Roberta Fonzi also worried about an existing business on the site: Malibu Brew Coffee. The local shop could eventually become one of La Plaza’s tenants, city officials said.

Fonzi asked that Wysong help Malibu Brew find another location during construction. No other potential tenants were disclosed, but Wysong said attracting big-name companies is critical.

“We want national people in here to get this project moving,” he said, noting that the project will most likely be built in a single phase.

He was hesitant to give a construction timeline, but permit requirements call for the project to begin within two years.

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