A central piece of property in downtown Atascadero scarred by a fire may be reborn if a new commercial development proposal becomes a reality.
With Colony Square, Sunken Gardens and The Carlton Hotel all nearby, the mostly vacant and blighted property at El Camino Real and Atascadero Avenue would become one more piece of a downtown’s fitful transformation into a vital core. The vision for Atascadero's downtown has been to create a walkable retail hub, much like downtown San Luis Obispo. Adding another anchor of shops to the northern end of downtown may do just that.
The parcel, owned by the Hoff family, was the 30-year home to North County Christian School's thrift store before a fire destroyed the shop in March 2009. The store has since moved farther south on El Camino Real.
On Wednesday, the project by Ben Hoff went before the city’s Design Review Committee, which recommended approval of the project to Planning Commission. The plan consists of building a 26,500-square-foot commercial project with three buildings of retail, restaurant and office space. After the proposal leaves the commission, it will also need City Council approval.
The site was once slated for the ill-fated La Plaza Cinemas project in 2010 that called for a 10-screen movie theater, shops and a restaurant. That plan, envisioned by Paso Robles’ Park Cinemas owner John Roush, lost steam a year later because another movie complex, Galaxy Theatres, was already approved across the street.
The new plan shows architectural features and color palettes similar to those of Colony Square, with landscaping, walkways and 78 parking spaces in the back.
The buildings are proposed to have second stories to allow space for professional offices, and one will have a ground-floor restaurant with a second-floor bar terrace overlooking the Sunken Gardens, according to the city. A height exception will be required to build downtown.
Hoff’s proposal also calls for the demolition of all existing buildings on the site, including the Atascadero Main Street building, according to the city.
Parking is likely the biggest impact related to the project, according to city staff, but they say the issue can be minimized with future parking agreements and shared parking access from neighboring businesses such as what Colony Square does now with a nearby bank and other downtown properties.