Mixed response voiced to updated plans for Pacific Highlands Ranch Village Center in Carmel Valley

By Karen Billing

The movie theater may be out of the plans for the updated Pacific Highlands Ranch (PHR) Village Center, but new owner Tom Blake of Coast Income Properties is developing many ideas he hopes will create a place that appeals to the community. The center’s new plan is for less retail and more residential units. Potential uses include a boutique grocery store, a gym, community gardens, a bocce ball court, wide sidewalks for outdoor dining and an abundance of gathering spaces.

The PHR Village Center plans were approved by the city in 2010 with 219 residential units and 195,000 square feet of retail, including the cinema on the site on Carmel Valley Road and Village Loop Drive, across from Canyon Crest Academy. Blake would like to scale down the center to 145,000 square feet of retail and add 110 to 115 more residential units.

The design and architecture will remain as was originally proposed and buildings will be a mix of one to six stories. The new plans reflect a five-foot height increase over what was approved.

During a review at the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s regional issues subcommittee meeting on Nov. 15, co-chair Anne Harvey said that what she’s heard most from neighbors is “What happened to our movie theater?” and “I thought we were getting a supermarket.”

Blake said the movie theater no longer makes sense in the marketplace — theaters are too expensive to build, they don’t pay much in rent and they generate a “tremendous amount of parking.”

As for the grocery store, the plan is to take the 43,000-square-foot building that was considered to be a grocery store —but never promised — and split it into two buildings, one of them potentially for a boutique market like a Trader Joe’s.

Harvey worried that the lack of a movie theater would mean the center would lose that “lively” center of activity, “A place to go when people want a place to go.”

“I think we can still achieve that,” said Keith Pittsford of SGPA Architecture and Planning.

He said they hope to load the center with a variety of uses that will make it an attractive place to visit.

Blake said that they have talked to some potential tenants to replace the large cinema space, although nothing has been made official yet. Some sample tenants include an upper-end gym, an REI or Nordstrom Rack.

“I think there’s a demand for retail in this area,” said Blake.

Neighbor Shenping Yuan said he was concerned that building more units and incorporating less retail won’t encourage people to come to the site and also doesn’t provide local residents with the uses they need to be a self-sustaining community, without having to travel east or west to shop.

“We have been hoping this new village will make our life easier and make the area more attractive to future homeowners,” Yuan said. “The original plan approved by the city may not be perfect, however, it seems to have a better proportion of residential versus retail.”

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