The future of Downtown Atascadero: La Plaza project clears first hurdle

The La Plaza project, which went through a successful pre-application review with the city’s Design Review Committee March 29, would completely transform a large section of Atascadero’s Downtown business district if it is constructed. The project would be built on the west side of El Camino Real from East Mall to Entrada Avenue.

Developer Mike Zappas was able to purchase the Hoff Property, located directly across from Sunken Gardens and a lot formerly occupied by Jack in the Box just to the north of the Hoff Property in February of this year. Zappas seems to have a passion for the project and said he plans to see it through to fruition.

Zappas said that he’ll be working with his two grown children Max and Zoe on developing the property.

“We feel really lucky and honored to be doing this project here,” he said. “I have lived in Atascadero for 25 years and have always wanted to see something wonderful done with these properties in the downtown. My son and I were looking to start a project and found these properties were on the market and bought them up with this vision in mind.”

Zappas said that the project design will stay true to the architectural feel of the downtown with a use of colors and materials consistent with Atascadero City Hall and the Printery building.

Plans include the construction of a three story building with 37 residential units on the top two floors, 20,000 square-feet of retail space, 9,700 square-feet of office space, a pedestrian plaza and onsite parking behind the complex with a total of 95 parking spaces (24 of which will be designated for residential units).

Zappas said the property has a rich history and as a longtime resident of Atascadero, he plans to honor that. The site was first developed as part of city founder E.G. Lewis’ vision for the downtown area and in 1917 the original La Plaza building was completed, becoming the hub of the city. Also known as the Mercantile, it was Atascadero’s first shopping center.

“EG Lewis really had an innovative vision for this great city that I feel was lost after he passed away,” Zappas said. “We will try to create a heart to the city with this project and bring the Downtown area to life. The original building has been the inspiration for developers and the name will remain the same as a tribute to E.G. Lewis.”

Since 2009 when a fire destroyed the structures that once stood there, these properties have been laying in wait. All that remains of the former development is a coffee shop and salon. Since the fire there have been two ill-fated attempts at development including a plan for a movie theater that was put on hold when Galaxy Theaters began construction and a project similar to La Plaza that didn’t make it past the initial review phase.

Zappas said that the city has been very supportive of the project and excited about the prospect of it. There are three levels of approval to get through before the La Plaza project can move forward, but Zappas said that he hopes that within a year it will be approved and he will be able to break ground in the spring of 2018.

“Once we complete phase one of the project our plan is to purchase the Founders Building and enter phase two to expand the development up to Traffic Way,” he said. “We are already talking with local vendors that are interested in making La Plaza a home for their businesses. It is very exciting.”

To learn more about the La Plaza project contact city planner Alfredo Castillo at [email protected] or 805-470-3436.


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