Hotel, public market, performing arts center proposed in Paso Robles

kleslie@thetribunenews.comMay 5, 2014 

A hotel, performing arts center, parking structure and public market totaling 228,000 square feet could be coming to the heart of Paso Robles within two years, if city officials approve the proposed project this summer.

Developers Brett Van Steenwyk and Debbie Lorenz, who own the Acorn Building, recently submitted plans to the city for the project, called Pine Street Promenade, located downtown at 944 Pine St. on the former site of the Hayward Lumber Yard.

Van Steenwyk and Lorenz bought the 2.4-acre lot for about $4.25 million last year, with the intent to build a parking structure in the space, Lorenz said.

The plans evolved, however, to include a 107-room hotel with restaurant and office space, as well as a central plaza/gathering area and basement parking structure — about 201,600 square feet in total.

On the first floor, the hotel will feature a public market where local vendors can rent booths to sell their wares, similar to the Oxbow Public Market in Napa.

Lorenz said the development will act as a bridge between the Amtrak station and the central business district, hopefully bringing Paso’s approximately 420,000 yearly visitors downtown more often.

“I want to keep everyone downtown,” Lorenz said. “I really want this to be walkable. I just love the idea of being able to walk from a hotel or from the train to everything down there.”

To accommodate additional traffic the new development could bring downtown, the project’s civil engineer Mike Hodge and architect Steven Puglisi suggested that a 230-space parking structure be built beneath the hotel, Lorenz said.

Lorenz said the cost of parking would be comparable to what parking garages in San Luis Obispo charge. (All three parking structures in downtown San Luis Obispo charge 75 cents per hour, with the first hour being free.)

Besides the hotel, the development will also feature a 500-seat, 26,000-square-foot performing arts center — similar to the Clark Center for the Performing Arts in Arroyo Grande, which has 617 seats in its main theater, and 120 in its smaller theater, and the Templeton Performing Arts Center, with 331 seats.

Lorenz added the center to the development after a meeting with actor and Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance personality Casey Biggs, who has been searching for a way to bring a performing arts center to the area, he said.

“People want culture in their backyard,” said Biggs, who is known for his series of “Paso Wine Man” videos. “I think it would be a wonderful piece of the puzzle for Paso Robles.”

Biggs said the theater would not be in direct competition with the 1,289-seat Performing Arts Center in San Luis Obispo, and would instead cater more to local interests and smaller acts. It could also be rented out for lectures, he said.

Biggs said he expects the theater will cost between $30 million and $50 million to build, but he’s working on an economic feasibility study to determine the exact cost, as well as how to ensure its profitability after opening.

“What people don’t understand is it costs a lot of money to keep the lights on,” Biggs said. “But we will be working with and talking to local companies to determine exactly what the community need is.”

Norma Moye, executive director of the Paso Robles Downtown Main Street Association, said between the parking structure, the performing arts center and the hotel, she couldn’t be happier with the proposed project.

“It’s going to be a great asset to us all,” Moye said. “I hope we can get it (approved) soon. (Van Steenwyk and Lorenz) have done some great work around town, and I’m excited to see this go up.”

The project is still a long way off from construction.

Lorenz expects to present the plan and an accompanying environmental impact report to the Paso Robles Planning Commission sometime in June or July; if approved, it will then go before the Paso Robles City Council.

Once approved, the project could take between a year and a year and a half to complete, with most construction taking place in two phases, she said.

Phase one would consist of the demolition of a barn and building on the site, and the construction of the hotel space.

Phase two would be construction of the performing arts center — though if she could raise the funds, Lorenz said, she would be interested in completing the two phases simultaneously to speed up the process.

Lorenz declined to disclose how much the entire project might cost, saying that it was still in the early stages of planning and costs are likely to change.

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