By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A weed-strewn lot near the Windsor Town Green, one of the last of two undeveloped downtown parcels, could soon be home to a four-story apartment building with retail space on the ground floor.
The Town Council on a 4-1 vote Wednesday designated the Richardson Street mixed-use project a priority development that puts it on a fast track for approval, but not before incorporating a number of suggestions to spruce up the architecture and design.
“I wouldn’t want to live there,” said Councilman Sam Salmon, who cast the dissenting vote, and said the proposed 37-unit rental apartment building looked too much like a “motel.”
“It reminds me of the low-income housing over by the bowling alley on Johnson Street, which is 35 to 40 years old. You have a long ways to go in terms of the design,” he said
Other council members also had qualms about the project but were more charitable in their comments.
“You guys have come a long way,” Councilwoman Debora Fudge told developers Phil Richardson and Bob Dailey. “Millions of miles away from Alzheimer’s.”
A previous proposal on the site that included a 20-unit Alzheimer’s care facility along with some residential units failed to get support from the planning commission last year. Concerns were raised about the possibility of patients wandering from the facility and into nearby traffic.
The one-acre Richardson Street site is immediately north of McDonald’s and borders Old Redwood Highway. It represents some of the last of 16 acres originally owned by Richardson, most of which ended up as part of Town Green Village built by developer Orrin Thiessen.
Dailey, a senior partner in Pegasus Group, a Walnut Creek-based real estate investment and management firm, said he hopes to start construction this year.
Council members noted that the site is part of the gateway to downtown and should make a positive impact.
“This is a little too generic of a building,” Mayor Robin Goble said of the computer-illustrated drawing. “We need a little more of a statement building. It doesn’t need to be more expensive, but good design.”
Council members had a list of items for developers to consider before the project goes back to the planning commission for final approval. If they deviate significantly from the recommendations, the Town Council could weigh in again.
The recommendations include adding balconies to the apartments, varying the size of some of the units to include more than just two-bedroom, 850-square-foot dwellings, and approaching McDonald’s to share some of the restaurant’s parking lot.
Council members were concerned that the 49 on-site parking spaces and 16 off-site spaces proposed by the developer are not enough, particularly on Thursday evenings in the summer when thousands of people attend outdoor concerts on the Green.
But council members also want the ground floor retail space to be large enough to attract an “anchor tenant” and not just be subdivided into three, 850-square-feet spots, as proposed.
“We have so many smaller downtown storefronts, We need something bigger to draw (people),” said Fudge.
“Boutique retail has probably not been as vibrant as needs to be. There’s been a lot of failures,” said Vice-Mayor Bruce Okrepkie.
Council members also are worried about allowing more apartments since there are more than 600 of them in the pipeline, either approved or previously proposed.
That “feels like too many,” said Councilman Steve Allen.
Those include the 300-apartment Bell Village project planned across the street and the 360-unit Windsor Mill project off Windsor Road.
You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.