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Dalidio property gets a facelift 

 It’s no longer Marketplace, it’s the Dalidio Ranch. And that should tell you something about the highly controversial, and recently revised, shopping center now set to go before county voters on November 7.  Ernie Dalidio’s most recent design includes soccer fields, monarch butterfly habitat, a bike path, a farmer’s market, and 13 acres of organic farmland — along with the retail stores.
click to enlarge SHOPPING AT THE RANCH :  Don’t call it Marketplace. Ernie Dalidio’s ranch could be the home of retail stores and an organic farm if the county votes to pass the proposed plan this November. - FILE PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER GARDNER
  • FILE PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER GARDNER
  • SHOPPING AT THE RANCH : Don’t call it Marketplace. Ernie Dalidio’s ranch could be the home of retail stores and an organic farm if the county votes to pass the proposed plan this November.
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 Asked if organic gardening is something personally important to him, Dalidio acquiesces. “The community wants it,� he says. “That’s what it is.�

 After tumultuous years fighting Marketplace foes such as the group Save San Luis Obispo, it seems Dalidio has learned to listen to community concerns. It helps that county supervisor Jerry Lenthall set up a special study group to gauge what exactly the community wants out of a big-box-store development placed in the geographic heart of San Luis Obispo. The community spoke out, and Dalidio and his new consultants, RRM Design Group, listened.

 The only way to design a successful project is to listen to the community, insists Vic Montgomery, architect for RRM Design. “We will go, we will listen, and we will act,� Montgomery recalls saying to Dalidio. Montgomery says his firm has focused on a design that allows citizens to maximize use of the 131-acre property. Instead of open space that exists for its aesthetic value, RMM wants land that exists for use. “It’s all about people being able to use the property,� says Montgomery.

 Concerning the physical layout of the stores, the architect says in the prior design the stores were pushed together to preserve open space. “Yes, these are big stores,� he says. “You can break them down into smaller pieces and that’s what we tried to do.� The result is a more sprawling, gentler design, featuring a tree-lined boulevard and outdoor cafes, more of a downtown feel.

 When the Marketplace project was first submitted for city approval, city staff urged Dalidio to avoid this type of design, as they didn’t want competition with downtown. But now that city voters turned down the project and it’s gone to the county, Dalidio and RRM have been able to drastically redesign the center. There are 100,000 county voters and a simple majority is needed for the project to move forward.

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