A pared-down second phase of Atascadero’s Colony Square project will have less housing to start and an emphasis on shopping and restaurants, according to a design plan for seven new buildings recently approved by the city.
A shifting financial market is guiding changes to new phases of the center at El Camino Real and Highway 41 — a project considered a staple in the city’s downtown revitalization.
The project’s first phase broke ground in November 2009 and is about 90 percent occupied. The search for final tenants is ongoing.
Owner Peter Hilf and his team have nixed plans for housing and office space on second and third floors of new buildings. The buildings will still appear as taller two-story structures to match the existing theater in the project.
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The second phase also breaks up larger buildings into smaller ones, lessening the project’s overall footprint by about 12 percent and offering small, customized spaces that could attract tenants faster.
The altered plan calls for new shops and restaurants to open in several phases as tenants express interest in them, instead of all the buildings going up at once.
“The new plan will give us more flexibility in leasing now that we have smaller building sizes that will be easier to fill on a per-case basis,” said Corban Holland of Pacifica Commercial Realty.
Holland declined to disclose specific tenants interested in the second phase and noted that no one has signed on yet.
In the new plans, sixty-seven condos have been moved to a larger building pad on the east side along Capistrano Avenue. Parking would go below the complex.
While the square’s uses are evolving, its overall look will essentially stay the same, including a focus on creating a pedestrian-friendly center with walking paths and a sitting plaza.
Getting out of the car
Changing the public’s perception of Atascadero’s downtown, especially when it comes to parking, also plays a part in the project.
As Colony Square gains popularity — largely through anchor tenant Galaxy Theatres, the only movie theater in town — the lack of parking spaces inside the center has become a concern for some.
But project architect Thom Jess said that is a short-term issue, because the city has not yet reached its ultimate vision.
“We never viewed Colony Square as a shopping center. It’s an expansion of downtown,” Jess said. “Having it all be self-parked would defeat the whole purpose.”
The vision for Atascadero’s downtown, Jess said, is to have a retail core diverse enough to attract patrons to park in one spot and walk to all their destinations, much like downtown San Luis Obispo.
Atascadero’s downtown has not reached that point. That’s why a push for more shopping and eateries is paramount, Jess said.
“We don’t have enough things to walk by between Point A and Point B,” he said. “That’s why we need more shops and restaurants and business. That’s the whole kind of vision for this.”
Colony Square currently has 227 parking spots, with 20 more to come in the second phase. But there are roughly 945 parking spaces in and around downtown.
That’s key to a new campaign the city developed earlier this year encouraging people to park outside of Colony Square.
The city made maps and partnered with local businesses, such as Rabobank across the street, to allow the public to use their lots in the evening. Portable signs come out on busy nights to help direct people to open spots, said Warren Frace, community development director.
Public parking lots off Traffic Way and outside the Atascadero Main Street office off El Camino Real have also been identified, as have street parking spots north of Colony Square on East Mall and West Mall, Entrada Avenue and Traffic Way.