The La Plaza project in downtown Atascadero is moving forward, adding thousands of square feet of commercial space to an area that's remained vacant for nearly a decade.
The mixed-use development — to be located on El Camino Real between Entrada Avenue and East Mall — will be made up of two three-story buildings on 1.83 acres of land.
The project has been in the works for about a year, since developer Mike Zappas purchased a vacant 1.49-acre site near the Sunken Gardens from the Ben Hoff family in February 2017.
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Later in the year, he also bought the adjacent property — which was once home to a Jack in the Box restaurant — in addition to the old Founder's Community Bank building and a vacant gas station on the corner of El Camino Real and Traffic Way.
The area has been slated for commercial development since 2009, when the North County Christian School's thrift store burned down, leaving the 1.49-acre site vacant.
Zappas is currently renting much of the Founder's Community Bank building to Patterson Realty and Motions Academy of Dance. A sandwich shop, Colony Market, is planned for the gas station property.
La Plaza project gets city approval
The City Council on April 10 approved the La Plaza development on a 5-0 vote.
The ground floor of the larger building will feature 14,000 square feet of commercial space, and the smaller building will feature 3,749 square feet of commercial space, according to a city staff report.
The top two floors of both buildings will feature 42 units of residential space. Four of the units will be sold as condominiums and the remaining apartments will be rented, Zappas said.
The units will range from one-bedroom apartments with 700 square feet to three-bedroom apartments with 2,700 square feet, he said.
Although council members were concerned bars or restaurants offering alcohol could potentially cause noise concerns below the living spaces, Zappas said all the units will be well-insulated.
Target tenants will likely be younger residents who won't require a completely quiet living area, Zappas said.
The top floors were initially going to include office space, but Zappas said living spaces are more marketable and will require less parking.
"It just became obvious there wasn't a dire need for office space," he said. "Especially not at the price we were going to have to charge for them."
The development will include 112 new parking spaces, with 46 in a private garage to be rented to tenants and 66 available for public use, Zappas said.
Phil Dunsmore, the city's community development director, said parking is not a concern because the development will supply at least 89 new spaces and is located within a quarter of a mile of 1,000 free public spaces.
"Mixed-use projects work very well, since the parking demand for residential is higher overnight when the parking demand for commercial space drops off," Dunsmore said in an email. "In other words, residential tenants without a parking garage will be able to park in the parking lot on-site or on surrounding streets."
Zappas said it was a "relief" to get the council's approval. He expects to break ground on the project in the fall and complete it within a year.
"That was a big step for us," he said. "Now we're running."