Madonna Enterprises buys Atascadero site for new shopping center

After years in limbo, the Atascadero property known as The Annex has a new owner.

Madonna Enterprises has bought the land at the corner of Del Rio Road and El Camino Real, approved by the city for 110,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space next to the Wal-Mart project.

Developer Clint Pearce, president of Madonna Enterprises, said his firm bought the land in two parcels. The first parcel of 11.2 acres was purchased from Montecito Bank & Trust, which had been searching for a buyer after the property went into foreclosure. Escrow closed on the first portion in July.

The second parcel of 1.8 acres was purchased from a local investment group about a month ago, Pearce said.

Pearce, who declined to disclose the purchase price, said he had been watching from the sidelines for years before he decided in the past year that the time was right to take a serious look at the property.

“It was the furthest thing from my mind, but over the last couple of years, I became more interested in what was happening there,” he said. “Montecito Bank took the property back, and I know banks are in the business to make loans, not to own property, and so I figured at some point it might be a good investment. We were able to come to agreement on it.”

As part of the city’s approval of an environmental study for the retail and restaurant project, the owner of The Annex is responsible for paying $2.6 million in traffic fees to mitigate impacts at the Del Rio Road overpass at Highway 101.

The city of Atascadero and Wal-Mart also are responsible for their shares of the roadwork costs.

Improvements to the overpass must be made before Madonna Enterprises can build, which will likely be several years from now, Pearce said. He noted that his firm is comfortable with “provisions of the EIR and knowing there are things we have to do.”

Wal-Mart can build before interchange improvements are completed, but it must build a roundabout on El Camino Real, plus related roadwork requirements, before The Annex project moves forward.

“There are no solid timelines,” Pearce said. “It’s a ways off, and we’re not in a hurry to get ramped up to build anything.”

Even so, Pearce is excited about the opportunity to build a new shopping plaza in Atascadero, a community where he believes there are “unmet needs.” The project will also get a new name: Del Rio Marketplace.

Madonna Enterprises is starting to market the project to get a feel for tenant demand. Pearce envisions a variety of tenants to complement Wal-Mart, which will be the anchor tenant across the street. Pearce said a “quality grocery” would make sense as well as brand-name stores and casual dining that appeal to the greater North County community.

Irish Hills, one of the developer’s most recent commercial projects in San Luis Obispo, is home to an Old Navy, TJ Maxx and Whole Foods.

“They (Walmart) are going to have a whole spectrum of goods and services out of that store,” he said. "We want stores complementary to that, not necessarily in direct competition. We like to go as high end as we can, but at the same time still making sense for that shopping center.”