On Tuesday the Planning Commission, Heritage Resource Commission and Historic Design Review Committee, along with town staff and the site owner, held a study session to discuss the project. The meeting included a public hearing, but no members of the public spoke.
The site is home to two of the town's heritage resources: the McCauley House, now Corks Wine Store, and the historic Danville Hotel itself, now Sideboard Cafe and the Polka Dot Attic.
Developing this site has been a particularly long and complex process; it's been four years since the project was first introduced. At 1.12 acres, the site is a huge property given its downtown location, said project planner Catarina Kidd.
The proposed plan would expand 13,000 square feet of developed space to about 23,000 square feet. The two heritage resources as well as most of the existing buildings facing Hartz Avenue would be retained while the rest of the old buildings, including the storefronts facing Railroad and Prospect Avenues, would be torn down, according to the plan.
The three-story building would be located behind the street-facing store fronts, along with a center quad for pedestrians. It would house eight residential condos on the second and third floors and commercial offices on the first floor, facing the center quad.
These could be doctors or lawyers, or possibly a gallery or small business, said owner and developer Tom Baldacci of Castle Companies. The landscape architect, David Gates, has envisioned a grassy area and a fountain made to look like Mount Diablo.
The goal of the project is to find a balance between retaining the historic properties and meshing with the character of downtown, while realizing the full economic potential of the area, said Baldacci. Shopping traffic is inconsistent and those that do visit downtown don't often spend money there, he said.
Downtown Danville is still evolving and finding its identity, and the mixed-use development of the Danville Hotel would introduce something brand new to the area, he said.
All the moving pieces of the project must fit together to make it viable, he said. The residential housing would finance the underground parking, which is very costly but helps maximize the use of the space.
In today's housing market, there's no way to scale back the residential area in the plan and still pay for the project, Baldacci said. "That's sort of what drives us up to three stories."
But the thought of a three-story building made many commissioners at the meeting nervous, plus the proposed height of the buildings is 41.6 feet, which exceeds the town's limit of 35-38 feet. This is not a town that's wild about tall buildings, they pointed out.
"My sense is it's just too big. It could overwhelm all the properties around it," said Planning Commissioner Bob Nichols.
But Planning Commissioner Robert Storer called the project "spectacular," and said they just have to "clean up a few things" to make it viable.
Locating the three-story building on the inside of the development behind the smaller, traditional buildings is a common approach to developing historic sites, planners said, referencing the Vecki House on Front Street and Shuey-Podva House on School Street as examples.
Heritage Resource Commissioner Lee Halverson asked if the historic buildings would be restored. Baldacci said as the project moves forward, the plans would ensure that the functionality of the buildings stayed intact.
Nothing was decided or voted on at the study session. The Planning Commission will meet again with the Heritage Resource Commission, which has the final vote on the development plan. The Town Council will vote on any tax breaks recommended for this project.
A set of development plans is available at the Town Offices at 510 La Gonda Way for the public to view and comment on.
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