Renovation plan for SLO’s historic Creamery passes architectural review

The Higuera Street entrance to the Creamery in downtown San Luis Obispo.
The Higuera Street entrance to the Creamery in downtown San Luis Obispo. kleslie@thetribunenews.com

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to omit two businesses initially listed that have moved from the Creamery within the last three months.

For the first time in about 30 years, downtown San Luis Obispo’s historic Creamery will get more than a face-lift after a proposed remodel and expansion of the building passed its final hurdle Monday night.

The Architectural Review Committee voted 4-0 to approve the long-sought improvements and additions to the roughly 90-year-old center at 570 Higuera St.

In the absence of an appeal to the San Luis Obispo City Council, the property owners will submit their building plan for review before construction begins, city Associate Planner Rachel Cohen said Tuesday.

The project was designed by San Luis Obispo-based architects Greg Wynn and Arris Studio Architects. Damien Mavis, co-owner of SLO Creamery LLC, said the project has been a long time coming.

We’re very excited to get this project underway and it’s going to be a great improvement to a very cool, historical, funky retail center.

Damien Mavis, co-owner, SLO Creamery, LLC

“We’re very excited to get this project underway, and it’s going to be a great improvement to a very cool, historical, funky retail center,” Mavis said Tuesday. “It’ll bring much-needed upgrades and refocus the (property) to a more pedestrian-friendly development that will create a very desirable area to pedestrians, bicyclists or anybody who visits the downtown area.”

He said the project will be done in phases to limit impacts to tenants, with the first phase beginning within a month, Mavis said. The entire project should take 16 to 18 months.

Mavis declined to say how much the total project is estimated to cost.

The arrangement of buildings that make up the Creamery center was completed in 1926. The site, now designated in the city’s Master List of Historic Resources, originally served as a working creamery. It went through occasional changes and additions until 1974, when it underwent its most extensive remodel.

The Creamery now houses about 10 businesses, including Spike’s Pub, Bikram Yoga San Luis Obispo, Goshi Sushi, Foremost Wine Co., Mama’s Meatball, and Picking Daisies.

The project encompasses 38,420 square feet, including an adjacent site for additional parking. The property is now home to four buildings and a 15-space parking lot. It is accessed by pedestrian and vehicle traffic on Higuera Street as well as a parking lot off Nipomo Street. It sits along San Luis Creek and lies next to a medium-high density neighborhood.

A rendering shows how the Creamery would look after a proposed remodel and expansion.

The largest component of the project is the construction of a new, 2,880-square-foot commercial building along the western property line called the Farmer’s Building, which will house up to four retail units done in an agrarian-industrial design, according to a staff report. A structure on the east side of the property used for years as a storage facility behind Ciopinot on Nipomo Street will be converted into a taqueria.

The existing parking lot will make way for a 400- square-foot pedestrian courtyard, and the remodel of an improved trash enclosure will be built next to Spike’s Pub.

Spike’s will demolish its back room, which was built in the 1980s and is considered a nonhistoric addition, and construct a new back room as a secondary dining area. That back room will include a rollup door opening to a patio as part of the plaza.

The project also entails extensive repair and repainting to the existing structures, installation of metal awnings, and a complete landscape remodel. Parking will be moved off-site to an adjacent parcel at 560 Higuera St.

They’re making it happen.

Andrea Miller, owner of Spike’s Pub

On June 27, the city Cultural Heritage Committee found the project consistent with the city’s historical preservation standards.

Neighbors on nearby Dana Street and the activist group Save Our Downtown expressed concerns over noise and the removal of seven trees, which will be replaced by four large shade trees and three smaller accent trees in the western parking lot. To address their concerns, the ARC added requirements that the rollup doors close at 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends, Cohen said.

Allan Cooper, who sent a letter to the ARC on behalf of Save Our Downtown, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Andrea Miller, owner of Spike’s, said Tuesday that the pub’s main dining room will remain open through the construction of the new back room but will close down for about a week when the bathrooms are remodeled. She said Mavis has been communicating to her about the project so she could give her staff notice.

“They’re making it happen,” Miller said. “(Mavis) has been really good about working with us and letting us know what’s going to be going on with the buildings around us.”

Miller said she tentatively expects her building’s remodel and new back dining area to be complete sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving.