SLO Public Market moves forward under new leadership

Rendering of San Luis Obispo Public Market at South Higuera and Tank Farm roads.
Rendering of San Luis Obispo Public Market at South Higuera and Tank Farm roads.

The proposed San Luis Obispo Public Market development on historical Long-Bonetti Ranch land is moving ahead under new leadership and with hearings expected before two city advisory boards early next year.

PB Companies LLC, which brought together developers and business owners to move the marketplace concept forward, is no longer involved in the project on South Higuera Street, co-owner John Belsher said this week.

Belsher created the private investment firm in 2013 with Ryan Petetit, who now faces five felonies after being accused of a violent attack on his girlfriend in November. Petetit stepped down as CEO earlier this month but continues to remain a managing partner in PB Companies.

In the meantime, Belsher said he has created a new company, Central Coast Developers Inc., which will serve as an umbrella organization for several entities he owns, including PB Companies. Belsher said he is the sole owner of Central Coast Developers.

San Luis Obispo Public Market WHERE: 4.18 acres at the corner of Tank Farm Road and South Higuera Street. PROPOSAL: A mixed-use development with a restaurant, brewery, market and produce barn, and retail space offering a farm-to-table sensibility.

Belsher added that PB Companies’ role in the public market project all along was to assemble interested parties and then step away from the venture.

The San Luis Obispo Public Market development plan will continue under property owners Don and Taylor Judkins of Bakersfield, who are principal members of Tank Farm Center LLC.

President Mark Woolpert and CEO Darren Smith of Compass Health Inc., who planned to lease and operate SLO Public Market, are reviewing their role in the project, Smith said Friday, and wish to keep a clear distinction between their company and PB Companies.

“I still believe the project has a place in San Luis Obispo; however, we are torn,” Smith said. “Our concern regarding the character of the people we have chosen to do business with is very real at this point.”

He added that their dealings with Petetit have been strictly professional, and “we have no more insight into the personal behavior of Ryan Petetit than any other member of the community.”

Smith said that Compass Health has had a lease with Tank Farm Center LLC for several months.

“Our plan is to consider our options and do what we believe to be the right thing,” he said.

Tank Farm Center also owns the adjacent parcel where Tractor Supply Co. is anticipated to open in spring 2016, Taylor Judkins said. Judkins said he and his grandfather, Don, would manage the development and entitlement of the public market project. He hopes construction could start in the first or second quarter of 2016.

The concept includes a market offering local produce and products, a brewery, restaurant and retail space at the corner of South Higuera Street and Tank Farm Road.

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.

The project requires review from the city’s Cultural Heritage Committee and Architectural Review Commission.

In addition, the Judkins family is involved in another former PB Companies project at the site of the former Foster’s Freeze site in downtown San Luis Obispo. Belsher said the Judkins family owns and will lead that project, assisted by Central Coast Developers.

The mixed-use project calls for residential, restaurant, office and retail space over four properties at 570, 578 and 590 Marsh St. and 581 Higuera St.

Cynthia Lambert: 805-781-7929, @ClambertSLO