Council Eyes Plans To Add More Downtown Housing

ESCONDIDO, California — City Council members took both tangible and conceptual action Wednesday to create more housing downtown.

ESCONDIDO, California — City Council members took both tangible and conceptual action Wednesday to create more housing downtown.

At its regular afternoon meeting Wednesday, the council directed the city's planning department to tweak the city's "downtown specific plan" with an eye toward encouraging more development that combines commercial and office space with condominiums and townhouses.

The idea behind such mixed-use projects, explained Kathy Rubesha, president of the Downtown Business Association of Escondido, is to bring more people downtown to live, work and play. She said encouraging mixed-use development will make the city's core "a place with a kind of physical energy, a place where something is going on."

A committee made up of downtown business owners and other interested residents will draft a new plan for downtown development and bring it back to the council after the first of the year.

Meanwhile, the City Council took a more concrete step toward encouraging downtown living when it unanimously approved a 122-unit townhouse project to be built on North Escondido Boulevard just north of the new Signature Theatres complex.

The $30 million, 4.5-acre project dovetails nicely with the city's renewed focus on creating an "urban village" atmosphere downtown. The new project is located within walking distance of the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, and Grand Avenue's restaurants, stores and art galleries. Future residents should be able to find a range of dining, shopping and entertainment walking rather than driving.

Del Mar developer John Barone predicted the townhouses in his project will "probably be the highest quality residential development in downtown Escondido."

Council members were visibly excited at the prospect of finally seeing the project start after more than two years of back-and-forth negotiations and planning.

"We've been wanting downtown housing and this does set the standard," said Mayor Lori Pfeiler.

Councilwoman Marie Waldron added that she appreciated the project's art deco-influenced architecture that is designed to compliment the nearby arts center.

"We want to set the bar high, and I think this will do it," Waldron said. "It's really one big piece in the puzzle of what we're trying to do for Escondido."

Originally Barone planned to build 200 units on the property, which is currently home to the vacant building that once housed the Palomar Lanes Bowling Center. That number was reduced to 122 units when the developer determined that underground parking would cost too much. Instead each unit will have its own two-car tandem garage. Units will range in size from 1,880 to 2,157 square feet.

Jason Arison, vice president of development and operations for Barratt Urban Development, the company that will build the new townhouse complex, said that pricing has not yet been determined.

Arison said crews will begin demolishing the old bowling alley in 30 days but construction will likely not be complete until March 2007.

Source: North County Times, Escondido, California