The vacant Long-Bonetti Ranch property in San Luis Obispo was transformed Thursday with a large white tent, 10 golden shovels and a crowd of people gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new project.
The first building constructed on the 4.18-acre property will be a Tractor Supply Co. store, which was approved in August 2013. The anchor store, which sells home, farm and agricultural maintenance goods, is expected to open later this year.
The San Luis Obispo Public Market could open next year, offering local fare, a brewery, restaurant, retail stores and produce at the corner of South Higuera Street and Tank Farm Road. Project approval by the city’s Architectural Review Commission is still needed before construction can proceed, however.
The existing buildings on the site, including the ranch house, barn, water tower and granary, will be incorporated into the project. The ranch dates to the early 1900s, and the structures are on the city’s master list of historic places.
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“It will be a destination both for people who live here and tourists,” San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx said during the groundbreaking ceremony. “There’s widespread community support. And how do I know? I haven’t gotten one complaint.”
The Architectural Review Commission has held a conceptual review of the project, but the final plans still have to come back for review first by the city’s Cultural Heritage Committee and then the ARC, associate planner Marcus Carloni said.
John Belsher and Ryan Petetit of PB Companies, a San Luis Obispo real estate development and investment firm, are developing the approximately $16.5 million project under Tank Farm Center LLC.
Belsher, born and raised in San Luis Obispo, said he had driven by the site hundreds of times and it always seemed “shrouded in mystery.” The project is a chance to revitalize part of the city’s history, he said.
The idea was conceived by Mark Woolpert, president of Compass Health Inc., and designed by Jim Dummit, Petetit said in a previous interview.
Woolpert, who will develop and lease the entire marketplace area, said he envisions offering such a wide range of goods that someone planning a party could buy everything they need on site — wine, beer, food and decorations.
“When Mark and I first walked this site together, we didn’t know what to make of it,” Dummit said Thursday. “Do you tear it down and start over or do you try to make something of it? It became quite obvious to us that we have a real opportunity to create something that could restore and preserve this historic site through new development.”