A building boom in SLO

A broad mix of residential and commercial projects are lining up for approval as the city emerges from several years of limited growth

acornejo@thetribunenews.comSeptember 21, 2013 

Homes are under construction in the first phase of the Serra Meadows housing development on Prado Road.

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

A sudden influx of development applications in San Luis Obispo hints that a building boom is on the horizon after years of stagnation.

A mix of residential and commercial projects spanning the city are winding their way through the approval process.

Two separate residential projects, totaling 355 homes, are in the pipeline for the Orcutt area at the southern edge of the city.

Meanwhile, Serra Meadows, the residential neighborhood on Prado Road east of Higuera Street, is selling homes in its first phase of building.

Commercial plans include a new hotel, a bed-and-breakfast, office and retail space. Preliminary plans also are being circulated for potential development of the 131-acre Dalidio Ranch adjacent to the SLO Promenade shopping center off Madonna Road.

The volume of building requests is the largest the city has seen since 2007, before the recession smothered development.

As new requests come in, additional projects are working their way toward fruition.

To date, the city’s planning department has received 131 applications with the expectation that by year’s end 262 applications will have been processed.

In 2008, the city received 194 planning applications. That number dipped to a low of 175 in 2011 before rocketing to 237 applications in 2012.

“There is kind of a cautious optimism that things are improving,” said Lee Johnson, the city’s economic development manager. “We went through a lot, and people are still a little shell-shocked.”

Johnson said the good thing is that optimism is returning.

“People are starting to dream big again. The conversation has gone from ‘Nothing is going to work’ to people looking around for an opportunity versus a threat.”

Here is a glimpse of projects on the drawing boards:


Flagg Hotel

A 100-room extended-stay hotel, known as the Flagg Hotel, is planned for South Higuera Street, where a former motorsports business was located. Developer Jim Flagg is in escrow on the property.

Flagg, president of Ocean Park Hotels, also owns and operates the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel that opened in 2007.

Preliminary plans include four condominiums, but that is conceptual, Flagg said.

“The hospitality market has always been fairly strong in San Luis Obispo and the Central Coast,”  Flagg said. “What has changed is financing: there is more available at this time. There really has been a need for a project like this for some time, but the ability to build because of the downturn in the economy made it difficult to make happen.”

The hotel, which will include small kitchenettes, will target guests staying more than a week and up to a month, such as people relocating to the area or staying on the Central Coast on business.

The project will take two to four years to complete.

Long-Bonetti Ranch

The Long-Bonetti Ranch, on the northeast corner of  South Higuera Street and Tank Farm Road, will be home to a Tractor Supply business selling home, farm and agricultural maintenance goods.

The site, owned by Long-Bonetti Farm LLC, is 5.56 acres and will preserve the historic buildings on the site, including a home, water tower, barn, granary building and main landscaping features. An enclosed outdoor sales area will face Long Street.

Applicant PB Companies, operated by attorney John Blesher and developer Ryan Petetit, are in escrow to purchase the property. They expect to begin the project in 2014.

McBride Commercial Development

McBride Commercial Development, at Broad Street and Tank Farm Road, is adjacent to the new SESLOC headquarters being constructed.

The site, purchased last year by Nick Tompkins of San Luis Obispo-based NKT Commercial, is zoned as a business park and commercial retail.

No specific development plans have been circulated, but Tompkins said he plans to temporarily use the site to store dirt while work is done across the street on the MindBody expansion — also being developed by NKT Commercial.

University Square

Tompkins also has another large project in the pipeline: the redevelopment of University Square.

The shopping center at Santa Rosa Avenue and Foothill Boulevard is long neglected and has had large commercial space unoccupied since New Frontiers moved to its new home on Los Osos Valley Road.

Tompkins purchased the property in 2012.

Tompkins said that despite the number of projects he has in the works, he is “at best cautiously optimistic” that the economy is making a strong recovery.

“Low interest rates have done a couple of things, including making people look at financial development when otherwise they possibly couldn’t,” Tompkins said. “But interest rates are not necessarily fixed forever; they have already started to move back up.”

Monterey Place

Monterey Place, at Nipomo and Monterey streets downtown, will feature 23 residential units, 11 bed-and-breakfast guest rooms, 3,800 square feet of restaurant space with patio dining, and 16,400 square feet of commercial space available for lease.

It is the largest residential project to emerge downtown since the renovation of the Wineman Hotel in 2009. 

The new bed-and-breakfast will be erected by restoring the historic Leitcher Apartments, built in the 1880s. A restaurant with creekside seating will connect to the lobby.

The project design includes an open-air paseo or pedestrian link between downtown, the creek walk, Monterey Street and the adjacent future city parking structure.

The project goes before the Planning Commission on Oct. 9, with construction expected to begin next year.

Garden Street Terraces

Garden Street Terraces, being developed by WestPac Investments, is undergoing revisions. It will eventually bring a 64-room hotel, eight residential units and 20,000 square feet of retail to the heart of the downtown.

The project, approved in 2011 after more than five years of discussion, is now expected to break ground in 2015.

A building at Marsh and Broad streets, home to Couch Potato Furniture Store, was once included in the project.

The original plan to demolish the building and build a new three-story building there was hampered when a deal to purchase the property from John Rossetti and Vic Montgomery failed.

The project will now be built behind that building in the existing city parking lot. The new plans must be reviewed by the city before construction documents can be submitted.

Carol Florence, planner with San Luis Obispo-based Oasis Associates, has represented the project since its inception.

Florence, who has been a planner for three decades, said the recession put a
“financial reality check” on many projects that had been planned before the economic decline.

Things are starting to look up, she said.

“This recession is horrible — was horrible — and it is still not great,” Florence said. “Projects that I entitled five to eight years ago are now actually being funded and coming to fruition. San Luis Obispo is still an attractive place to develop.”


Serra Meadows

Developer Mangano Homes continues to make progress on Serra Meadows, the new residential community on Prado Road. The first phase of 56 homes is underway, and Mangano is fine-tuning plans for the next 122 homes.

It is the largest residential development to be built in the city in the past nine years.

Four model homes are complete, and an additional four will be complete in November.

Framing is underway on 13 homes.

Andy Mangano said the homes are being sold under a reservation system, and so far, 14 of 17 homes have sold.

The homes are priced starting in the mid-$500,000s.

“We really need to get through the first phase and keep the sales momentum to catapult us into the second tract,” Mangano said.

Mangano is also developing Marsh Street Commons, a residential and commercial development downtown.

“The economy when we started that project, in August of last year, was not that great. We took a risk and have been successful in preselling all of the residential,” Mangano said. “The market has moved up considerably since then. The city is processing a lot of applications, but how many of them will hit the market? Watching the permitting activity is key to see how well we are doing.”

Wingate Homes

A new residential development dubbed Wingate Homes will bring up to 142 homes to a 10-acre site in the northeastern area of the Orcutt Area Specific Plan.

It is the first residential development in the area to emerge since a specific plan for the area was adopted and the area was annexed by the city in 2011.

The preliminary design for the project includes 45 single-family homes, 33 single-family terraced homes, 12 loft-style apartments and 52 senior flats.

The 45 homes will be one- and two-story, ranging in size from 1,500 square feet to 2,900 square feet. The homes will mimic California Spanish and California Modern styles.

A convenience store, a day care/preschool and a public park also are planned. A sculptural fountain — to pay homage to the rail workers who camped in the area during the construction of the railroad — will be located in the park. 

The area now is mostly grassland once used for grazing. The three existing homes on the site will be demolished.

The project will go before the City Council on Oct. 1 for approval of a tentative map.

Righetti Ranch

A second residential project also is proposed for the Orcutt area. The Righetti Ranch eventually will bring up to 275 homes to the area.

The project is near Orcutt and Tank Farm roads. The site includes Righetti Hill and is a total of 144 acres.

Preliminary development plans include open space, a park, single-family homes and multifamily housing.

Development in San Luis Obispo

A look at development around SLO

Here's a quick look at projects on the drawing boards around San Luis Obispo:

1. University Square
Plans for future redevelopment of the shopping center at Santa Rosa Street and Foothill Boulevard. Plans are expected by year’s end. Developer: Nick Tompkins

2. Chinatown
Plans for 46,140 square feet of retail space and 32 residential units on Monterey Street and later a 78-room hotel on Palm Street. Retrofit of historic buildings at Chorro and Monterey streets is underway. Developer: Copeland Properties

3. Monterey Place
A 23-unit residential project, 11-room bed-and-breakfast, restaurant and 16,400 square feet of commercial space. Developer: Shear Edge Development

4. Garden Street Terraces
A 64-room hotel, eight residential units and 20,000 square feet of retail space in the heart of the downtown. Developer: WestPac Investments

5. Flagg Hotel
A 100-room hotel with some residential. Developer: Jim Flagg

6. Dalidio Ranch
Conceptual plans for the project on the 131-acre ranch include as many as 500 homes along with farmland and open space. An enclave of commercial space, tucked next to the existing SLO Promenade shopping center, would be capped at about 200,000 square feet, according to preliminary plans. Developer: Gary Grossman

7. Long-Bonetti Ranch
A tractor supply store planned for the corner of South Higuera Street and Tank Farm Road. 37,350 square feet in buildings and 15,000 square feet in outdoor sales. Developer: PB Companies

8. Serra Meadows
A first phase of 56 homes is being built and a second phase of 121 homes is being planned off Prado Road. Developer: Magano Homes

A two-story, 35,000-square-foot headquarters and 5,000-square-foot retail branch building. Developer: Specialty Construction

10. McBride Commercial
Future development at Tank Farm Road and Broad Street will include a business park and possible commercial/retail space. Developer: Nick Tompkins

11. MindBody
The business will expand by nearly 60,000 square feet on the south side of Tank Farm Road. Plans include a two-story office building and four-level parking structure. Developer: Nick Tompkins

12. Righetti Ranch
Plans for 275 homes. Developer: Ambient Communities

13. Wingate Homes
Plans for 45 single-family homes, 33 terraced homes and a four-story building with 52 senior apartments and 12 lofts. Developer: Wingate Holdings

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939.

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