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SLO hotel project at Santa Rosa and Monterey streets is withdrawn

An illustration shows the proposed mixed-use project at the corner of Santa Rosa and Monterey streets that has been pulled from city planning consideration.
An illustration shows the proposed mixed-use project at the corner of Santa Rosa and Monterey streets that has been pulled from city planning consideration.

It’s unclear what will happen to a key gateway property in downtown San Luis Obispo after a potential project that would have featured an 80-room hotel, affordable housing and commercial space has been taken off the table.

Developer Nick Tompkins, in partnership with Andrew Firestone and Jess Parker of the Santa Barbara hospitality-based firm StonePark Capital, have opted not to move forward with a project that they had proposed for 1101 Monterey St., at Santa Rosa and Monterey streets.

The lot is the location of a former Shell service station a block from the landmark Fremont Theatre.

“After a conceptual plan review and getting feedback from different city advisory bodies, they decided not to formally submit the project,” said Rachel Cohen, a city associate planner.

The project would have added a 75-foot-tall development to a key entry to the downtown. Tompkins said in a phone interview Wednesday that they analyzed the risks, timing and investment outlay associated with the project and decided to “take a pause on it.”

“No option is really off the table at this point,” Tompkins said. “We just had to look at it from a variety of perspectives, including a fiscal perspective, to see if it would make sense.”

Tompkins said the proposal for a hotel and mixed-use is still a possibility, though doubtful.

Firestone said meetings with city advisory bodies — the Architectural Review Commission and Planning Commission, as well as with the City Council — were very productive and positive.

“We had a great response from council, architectural review and planning,” Firestone said. “We considered the timing of this and looked at a variety of things, all of the different components. Now, we’re taking a step back and having a good hard look at all of our options.”

Now, we’re taking a step back and a and having a good hard look at all of our options.

Andrew Firestone, hotelier

The project’s conceptual plan included an 80-room hotel, 26,000 square feet of residential space, 20,000 square feet of retail/restaurant space and 33,000 square feet of office space.

The plan also envisioned a 45-foot-tall public parking garage and transit center on two adjacent properties fronting Higuera Street.

“Whether the city builds it or we do, I still think a parking garage is needed on that side of town,” said Tompkins, adding that the transit center there makes sense as well.

Tompkins, who owns the site, had previously received approval to build two one-story, 5,000-square-foot commercial buildings there with offices, retail establishments or restaurants. He said the commercial space is still a possibility, but he’s analyzing various options.

But Tompkins shelved that project to develop conceptual planning of the mixed-use development with Firestone and Parker.

Currently, he’s conducting environmental remediation of the old gas station site.

Firestone previously said the hotel project could have added appeal to a key city entry point.

“The location that (Tompkins) has is such an amazing spot for the downtown,” Firestone said in a November phone interview. “I think it’s kind of a gateway to the downtown area there, and I just wanted to investigate if there was something we could do there that would be a little more important for the downtown as opposed to what he had gotten approved.”

The proposed mixed-use development was located just outside the downtown-commercial zone — it’s zoned retail-commercial — which allows for buildings 45 feet tall. The city allows 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.

Besides the affordable housing, the conceptual hotel and mixed-use plan included pedestrian amenities such as the public plaza and the transit center.

The design was inconsistent with the neighborhood character, blocked views of our precious foothills, and would have set a dangerous precedent for future development...

Mila Vujovich-LaBarre, San Luis Obispo resident

Firestone previously said a height of 75 feet was necessary for the project to be financially viable.

In February, offering feedback on the conceptual plan, City Council members said they would support a taller building, possibly up to 75 feet with the right project components, though Councilman Dan Carpenter suggested 60 feet was more reasonable.

San Luis Obispo resident Mila Vujovich-LaBarre was among the citizens who opposed the mixed-use hotel project, saying it wasn’t a good conceptual design and would have ruined views, among other concerns, such as the amount of water it would use.

“I am absolutely overjoyed that Andrew Firestone and Jess Parker have terminated their participation on this project,” Vujovich-LaBarre said Wednesday. “The design was inconsistent with the neighborhood character, blocked views of our precious foothills and would have set a dangerous precedent for future development from Santa Rosa north toward the Apple Farm restaurant.”

Vujovich-LaBarre hopes the transit center will go in at the RTA site at Marsh and South Higuera or the RTA site that is soon to be under construction adjacent to the new homeless shelter at 40 Prado Road.

At 1101 Monterey, she hopes for a one-story building, noting it’s the current standard, aside from allowances.

“A one-story height limit would preserve the views for residents and tourists alike of the foothills, trees and sky,” she said.

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