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Paso Market Place proposed for downtown unsettles neighbors, awaits City Council approval 

A former owner of Justin Vineyards and Winery is hoping to bring a new “sophisticated marketplace” to downtown Paso Robles: The Paso Market Place, a 16,597 square-foot, mixed-use project proposed at 1803 Spring St.

However, some neighboring residents and at least one City Council member aren’t quite sold. 

Applicant Deborah Long is asking to develop the vacant lot between 18th and 19th streets—the former site of Hometown Nursery, before it changed locations and then closed. Four “urban country style” buildings are proposed to be constructed on the site, which would be connected by breezeways and house 15 to 20 restaurants, cafes, shops, and stands with a “handpicked selection” of local food purveyors. The project would also repurpose a historic Victorian house on the corner of the property into a restaurant.

click to enlarge MODERN MARKETThe proposed Paso Market Place on Spring Street would welcome 15 to 20 local food and wine purveyors as well as second-story apartment units. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CITY OF PASO ROBLES
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CITY OF PASO ROBLES
  • MODERN MARKETThe proposed Paso Market Place on Spring Street would welcome 15 to 20 local food and wine purveyors as well as second-story apartment units.

In addition to the ground-level market, the proposed project includes six apartment units on the second floor of two of the buildings. 

If given the green light by the Paso City Council, the marketplace would eventually welcome merchants like an artisan cheese maker, wine collective, gelato counter, bakery, spice vendor, flower shop, and butcher and attract both locals and tourists, according to Cheryl Wieczorek, a project representative and former CFO of Justin Vineyards under Long’s ownership before it was sold in 2010.

While Long declined an interview with New Times, Wieczorek told the Paso City Council on June 20 that her vision for the project came from observing similar varieties of markets in Northern California, like the Ferry Building in San Francisco and the Oxbow Public Market in Napa Valley, as well as marketplaces internationally.

“Debbie believes this project is a natural progression for Paso Robles,” Wieczorek said. “It’s meant to be a walkable, family friendly, neighborhood destination as well as a perfect stopping point for a seasoned traveler.”

The Paso Planning Commission recommended approval of the project to the City Council on May 23.

Despite that recommendation, the Paso City Council voted 3-0 on June 20 to table a final decision on the proposal (with Steve Gregory recusing himself due to a property conflict and Fred Strong absent). To approve the plans, the council has to sign off on a zoning code amendment to allow for “specialty retail” at the site, as well as two setback exceptions.

The council also heard from several of the project’s neighboring residents concerned about the market’s proximity to their homes, and the resulting loss of privacy, overflow parking, and increased noise and smells. An alleyway behind the buildings would serve as the buffer between the marketplace and neighboring homes and also the location for food deliveries and trash bins, according to the design documents.

“I do not believe the size and design is appropriate for this neighborhood,” neighbor Sharon Roden told the City Council. “It does not blend the Victorian and Craftsman designs of the neighborhood. This building is designed to a height of 36 feet overlooking our backyard and the backyards of others. It is also where all the garbage containers are located as well as the loading and unloading zone. Clearly, I’m concerned about privacy, noise, and the offensive smells and what trash usually attracts.”

While Mayor Steve Martin and Councilman Jim Reed expressed tentative support for the project, Councilman John Hamon felt the proposed architecture (“agrarian design themes … with contemporary use of glazing, metal roofing, and natural wood siding,” according to a city staff report) fell out of line with downtown Paso’s character. He also had concerns about overflow parking and the use of “tandem parking” in the market.

“This is pretty much the center of our town. It doesn’t fit in my mind what Paso Robles is about,” Hamon said. “I have a problem with the design. With a beautiful Victorian on the corner … it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t come together well.”

In its vote to delay a decision, the City Council directed the applicant team to meet with neighboring property owners to discuss the concerns. City officials said that discussion took place on July 6 and led to a few tweaks in the plans, including the addition of parking spaces and a significant reduction in the number of tandem spaces.

The City Council will revisit the project at its Aug. 1 meeting. ∆

Contact Staff Writer Peter Johnson at pjohnson@newtimesslo.com.


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