A highly anticipated vision for a major entertainment hub in San Luis Obispo has been scratched after years of planning — and in its place the property owner is now proposing a six-story mixed use project that would become one of the city's tallest structures.
The international real estate company Jamestown, under the name Jamestown SLO Premier Retail LP, in partnership with Copeland Properties, is proposing a 75-foot-tall building at the corner of Chorro and Marsh streets, adjacent to California Pizza Kitchen on the same block as the Downtown Centre complex.
The building would be 13 feet higher than the 62-foot-high decorative piece atop the city parking structure across the street at Marsh Street (the parking structure is 55 feet high, decor aside).
The property at 1144 Chorro St. had been the planned site of the proposed Discovery SLO entertainment hub that envisioned a bowling alley, concert hall, restaurant, bars and a game room.
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But the entertainment center plan, approved for development, has been abandoned after a contentious business relationship led to litigation between Jamestown and Discovery SLO, which is no longer the tenant of commercial space.
Discovery SLO said the entertainment center also faced hurdles with the allowable hours of operation and unforeseen needed seismic upgrades.
Ambitious new plan
The new proposal, submitted to the city in the form of a project application on Tuesday, is calling for retail space on the ground floor, office space on the second and third floors and 55 housing apartments on the fourth, fifth and sixth floors.
Forty-five of the units would be studios and 10 would be one-bedrooms.
"The units have been sized to be 80 percent affordable by design, in that 80 percent of the units are under 600 square feet," according to the project application, filed with the city.
The proposal also envisions 60 parking spaces.
In response to inquiries from The Tribune about the estimated cost of the housing and project details, a Jamestown representative emailed The Tribune, saying, "It’s premature for us to answer these questions at this time, however we’ll be back in touch with more project details soon."
In the downtown-commercial zone, buildings can be 50 feet tall, but the city's Planning Commission may allow a maximum building height of 75 feet if the project meets at least two policy objectives — such as affordable and workforce housing, pedestrian amenities, historic preservation or energy efficiency.
This project application said that the housing would satisfy the requirements of providing workforce housing and historic preservation.
Michael Codron, the city's community development director, said that the project could meet workforce housing criteria if 5 percent of the dwellings were designated for low-income housing or 10 percent for moderate income housing under deed restrictions that base affordability on how much people earn.
The developer could meet the historic preservation requirement by funding the conservation of a structure of historic significance offsite in the city, Codron said.
The proposal is asking for an allowance to develop at a rate of density that's 30 percent higher than what's allowed typically.
Codron said the city will have to review the application to see if it complies with San Luis Obispo's policies, which can offer exceptions for density under certain scenarios.
The proposal is likely to meet with some controversy from residents who oppose tall buildings in the downtown, as well as disappointment from those hoping for an entertainment center.
In comparison, the county government center is 65 feet tall, the city parking garage at Palm and Morro streets is 80 feet at its tallest point and the Court Street shopping center is 54 feet tall. In addition, the Anderson Hotel on Monterey Street is 65 feet at the parapet and 90 feet at the top of the bell tower, according to past Tribune stories.
No bowling alley
Jeremy Pemberton, a partner in the Discovery SLO bowling project, said in a statement Thursday that his decision to pull out of the downtown project was caused by a combination of development factors, including "conditions and restrictions imposed on the project and limitations on future operations including required closing hours, all of which negatively impacted potential economic return."
"The highest concern of all participants with the project was ensuring public acceptance of the location and public safety," Pemberton added. "Unfortunately, we faced unforeseen life safety upgrades requiring seismic upgrades to the property to accommodate the capacity required by California Building Code for a viable concert venue."
Jamestown filed a lawsuit against Discovery SLO on April 25, 2017, claiming the business operated by Jeremy and Joshua Pemberton had failed to pay rent for more than a year and owed Jamestown at least $750,000.
The monthly rent was $51,490 for the property as of January 2017, according to the lawsuit.
The case is scheduled for dismissal on July 30, according to court records. Neither side has directly addressed publicly how the legal action is being resolved.
"As with any civil filing in our court system, any party can make claim or filing at their discretion," Pemberton told The Tribune. "No judgment was awarded. We have since arrived at a mutual agreement to pursue new development plans that meet our respective goals and objectives."