Owners aim to restore Paso's historic Farmers Alliance building

New details have emerged in a winery’s plan to breathe new life into Paso Robles’ historic Farmers Alliance building on the city’s west side.

Ray and Pam Derby of Derby Wine Estates propose to repaint the structure’s exterior its same iconic pink and restore the historic lettering Paso Robles Almond Growers Association Building on the parapet, according to plans going before the Planning Commission on Tuesday.

The project would refurbish the building according to state historical standards.

The 1922 structure, originally used to process almonds, was the center of a controversy in 2006 when grocery chain Smart & Final was denied a permit to knock part of it down. The project fizzled a year later, prolonging the building’s vacant state. The building has been largely unused since at least 1985.

The Derby family bought the building in the fall for an undisclosed sum, aware of its historic significance.

Ray Derby hopes to open in 2012, “though that might be a little optimistic,” he said in a previous interview.

Their proposal calls for:

restoring the exterior;

restoring and replacing windows to original condition;

touching up the historic Paso Robles Almond Growers Association Building lettering;

retaining the existing diamond frame decoration on the tower;

adding a new sign for Derby Winery on the tower;

using the existing roll-up doors;

re-using the existing loading dock along the front of the building.

The new construction proposed includes an interior tasting room and wine library, a wine bar and an outdoor tasting garden. A new public entrance would be built at the northeast corner, and new landscaping installed.

The project avoids removing or changing elements that characterize the property, according to the plan. City staff said the project is a good example of how a historic building can be adapted to new uses while still meeting local and state historic preservation requirements.

Derby Wine Estates has three estate vineyards in the North County and on the coast. The Derby family entered the industry as growers in 2001. The winery now produces about 2,000 cases annually at Paso Robles Wine Services. The company plans to hire 14 permanent employees at the new space and up to five seasonal workers. Its first phase would produce up to 10,000 cases.