Arroyo Grande leaders are moving ahead with plans to add a commercial building and improve a downtown park in time for the city’s centennial celebration in July.
The City Council unanimously approved two separate proposals Tuesday night, one of which moves forward a complex plan to demolish one city building, improve the landscaping around another, and construct a 5,802-square-foot commercial building at East Branch and Short streets.
The council had approved an agreement with developer Nick Tompkins of NKT Commercial in February to sell him two city buildings — the Conrad House at 208 E. Branch St., and a small structure at 200 E. Branch St. known as the malt shop — plus a parking lot in exchange for a building he owned at 300 E. Branch St. That building would now house some city staff.
“As much as the process took a long time, I think it’s a better project for it,” Tompkins said Tuesday after the council’s decision approving the final design of his project.
The council also approved preliminary designs for Centennial Park, a plan that would upgrade the gazebo and make other improvements to the park area by Olohan Alley and the city’s Swinging Bridge.
The proposal would add a commemorative plaque and spot for a centennial time capsule, a war memorial and an area to recognize project sponsors.
The project’s estimated cost of $192,000 would be covered by a combination of donations, grant money and about $40,000 in city funds set aside specifically for park improvements.
A few community members questioned the cost and urged the city to avoid using city funds.However, the council agreed with local resident Steve Ross, who said, “I don’t see why we wouldn’t use park funds to improve a park.”
The council’s discussion of Tompkins’ commercial project, called “The Shops at Short Street,” spanned several hours and included debate of numerous details, from the brick colors on the commercial buildings to whether public art should cover part of the east side of the building.
The exterior of the new commercial building features several separate facades, but the number of storefronts wouldn’t necessarily equal the number of interior tenants.
Tompkins said he believes he has three tenants so far, including a restaurant with patio seating. He declined to disclose further information about them.
“My family and I are really looking forward to the project,” local resident Jeff Ferber said. “The outdoor dining is a fantastic addition.”
A few in the community — some of whom have been opposed to the project from the outset — spoke Tuesday of their concerns, including the overall design and the loss of parking.
The project would remove 15 parking spaces and construct six; City Manager Steve Adams said the loss will be offset by the construction of additional parking on a Le Point Street lot, which currently has 24 spaces. City staff is working on adding 42 to 56 more spots.
Others, including local residents Tim Moore and Patty Welsh, questioned why the cost of narrowing and straightening Short Street, which would become a one-way street from East Branch Street to Olohan Alley, jumped to $170,000 from an initial $50,000 estimate.
Adams said that the preliminary estimate was based on a proposal to narrow the street. The final design is much larger, he said, and includes realigning the street; sewer, sidewalk and landscaping improvements; and relocating a streetlight.
About $100,000 is budgeted for the project. City staff proposes additional money be moved from funds for sewer and streets, and to pursue a grant through the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments.