Biz Buzz: Downtown SLO to get a $640K upgrade

Three blocks of downtown San Luis Obispo on Higuera Street from Morro to Broad streets will receive $640,000 worth of improvements in what city officials say is a model of similar work to come.

The City Council offered unanimous support for the downtown maintenance and beautification projects. Work includes mission-style sidewalks, upgraded tree grates, pedestrian lighting, new trash cans and news racks, upgraded sign posts and freshly painted traffic and light poles in the city’s standard color of dark green.

The council also asked city staff to research the cost of installing electrical conduits under the sidewalks to allow for lights to be strung in the trees. Mayor Dave Romero said the plan embodies his longtime vision of downtown.

The improvements include a collaborative public art project that will seek artists to decorate 17 utility boxes. The San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce called the upgrades essential for the city to remain competitive as a shopping and tourism destination.

— AnnMarie Cornejo

Receiver takes over A.G. hotel project

Construction on the Hampton Inn in Arroyo Grande has been taken over by a court-appointed receiver and is supposed to be completed in the next 60 days, sources close to the project say.

The 103-room hotel at West Branch Street and Camino Mercado has had financial troubles for two years, including its major lender Imperial Capital of San Diego going insolvent, which caused it to be taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Two weeks ago, Los Angeles-based City National Bank, which then took over the hotel loan, was granted a receiver to finish the hotel in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

It will use $2.5 million to finish the hotel with carpeting and lobby improvements and to pay off taxes, said Steve Cool, a minor partner in the project.

Cool, Gary White and American Property Management — which is supervising the project — are suing Imperial for breach of contract because it froze their loan and are resisting a threatened foreclosure, Cool said.

Local attorney John Hodges said contractors are owed thousands of dollars and he is worried foreclosure would prevent them from getting paid.

Approved by the Arroyo Grande City Council in 2005, the hotel would be one of the city’s largest, along with the Premier Inn and Casa Grande Best Western. The additional rooms would make up about a third of the city’s total hotel rooms.

— Melanie Cleveland

Paso car wash to reopen next month

The car wash on 21st Street in Paso Robles is re-opening July 1 under a new name — El Camino North.

It had been a car wash since 1985 before transforming into a transmission repair business, which has since closed, said the new owner, Gary Pederson.

Pederson, who has owned the El Camino Car Wash in Atascadero for 17 years, is equipping the Paso Robles car wash tunnel with the latest in car washing technology, freshening up the paint and landscaping and opening a detail shop as well, he said.

— Melanie Cleveland