Centennial Square plan up for debate at City Council meeting in Arroyo Grande

The Arroyo Grande City Council on Tuesday is expected to debate the proposed Centennial Square, a plan for a pedestrian plaza and other improvements local leaders say would make the historic Village a more desirable gathering place.

If approved, the small block of Short Street between East Branch Street and Olohan Alley would become a downtown pedestrian square.

The project also calls for a deal in which NKT Commercial would give the city the office building at Mason and Branch streets in exchange for the Conrad House, the 1950s-era city Building Department office known as the “malt shop” and the parking lot between the buildings.

The city would also pay NKT $1.2 million, making the total value of the deal $2.4 million.

The “malt shop” building would be demolished and NKT — a San Luis Obispo-based commercial property developer — would construct a 5,700-square-foot building in its place.

Arroyo Grande City Manager Steve Adams thinks the project is a good option for the city because the Centennial Square would make the area more pedestrian friendly.

Arroyo Grande residents Gordon and Manetta Bennett are opposed to the closing of Short Street and the idea of a community plaza, and are trying to spur opposition to the proposal by sending out letters, talking with community members and gathering signatures.

“Short Street is the gateway to our historical creek, gazebo, old school house and heritage house,” Manetta Bennett said. “We do not want this to turn into a big city — it’s a small agricultural town, and we should keep its heritage.”

Adams said the city aims to address its structural and space deficiencies using as little money as possible. It would also like to create new businesses in the Village that support economic development goals and bring in more pedestrian activity.

“We’ve worked very hard to come up with a project that addresses a lot of important needs in the community and does it in a way that utilizes the city’s resources and does not change the character of the Village,” Adams said.

City planners have been crafting the Centennial Square proposal for a year and a half.

Adams said the council has received a lot of positive community feedback as well as concerns at public meetings and workshops, which he said they have taken seriously and were able to address.