Solana Beach council shown top design for train station project

A top-ranked proposal that could transform the Solana Beach Transit Center into a bustling city hub was recently brought before the Solana Beach council.

Cardiff-based real estate development company RhodesMoore presented its Cedros Market concept during the Sept. 28 council meeting, outlining a project that would feature a boutique hotel, restaurants, retail stores, office spaces, residential apartment homes and a three-story parking structure.

“This project is really a key connector that this city badly needed,” said architect Torgen Johnson, who is leading the design team.

Plans to redevelop the train train station and adjacent 1.5-acre site at the corner of Cedros Avenue and Lomas Santa Fe Drive have been in the works for more than a decade. The council rejected the previous $72 million proposal known as Cedros Crossing in 2008.

With approval from the Solana Beach City Council, the North County Transit District in 2014 solicited and received proposals for a mixed-use development at the train station and adjacent property, both of which are owned by the district. After the selection process, which included a short-list of four proposals, the transit district’s source selection committee ranked the proposals and listed RhodesMoore as the highest ranked proposer.

Johnson said the Cedros Market concept closely follows the city’s 35-page design guidelines for the site. He added that the project aims to create an attractive commercial destination with sensitivity to community character, context, scale, traffic, parking and preservation of views along the Highway 101 corridor.

“The mission of this project, in essence, is to complete a 20-year vision of seamlessly reconnecting Solana Beach’s west side development with the city east of the train tracks,” Johnson said. “That bisecting of the city occurred about 20 years ago when the tracks were put three levels below grade for safety reasons. There were benefits to doing that but the drawbacks were this bifurcating of the city.”

The existing Quonset hut-shaped train station, which reaches 56 feet at the top of the tower, will remain the tallest building on the site. It will, however, be remodeled into the flagship restaurant on the property.

The design team said the other buildings will be a mix of one- and two-story structures, scaled to preserve existing views of the city.

“Part of the charm of Solana Beach is that it’s not urban; it’s something different,” Johnson said. “It’s dense, it’s walkable, but it’s also charming. It’s got character.”

The current concept results in about 48,000 square feet of commercial space that includes roughly 14,000 square feet in restaurant space for three main restaurant sites, 24,000 square feet in retail space, and 8,000 square feet in office space. The proposed boutique hotel is about 32,000 square feet, which would be about 45 rooms. Another 30,000 square feet in residential space would result in about 30 units.

The three-story parking garage would be partially below ground, with the capability of more than 1,250 parking spaces. The plan currently calls for about 750 parking spaces for transit district commuters and 325 spaces for residents, employees and visitors. The development also includes 89 diagonal parking spaces on the street.

Plans also include a proposed bridge for vehicles and pedestrians across the tracks at Estrella Street, which would connect Highway 101 to North Cedros Avenue. There would also be public plaza and green space.

The design team’s presentation did not include project costs or construction dates. City Manager Greg Wade explained that the team is still subject to further negotiations with the transit district’s source selection committee, which is expected to make a recommendation to the district’s board of directors by the end of the year.

“They would then come back to the city for submittal,” he said. “I want to underscore that no entitlement permits have been submitted at this point. It’s just too early in the process.”

The council will have the opportunity to later weigh in and approve discretionary permits, he added, as well as certify an environmental document.

The Cedros Market concept was one of four competing proposals introduced during two informal public workshops in November 2015 at Solana Vista School and Skyline Elementary School. The design team brought a large-scale model of its proposed concept.

“It was a really useful way to engage with the community, and get community feedback and really understand what people wanted,” one of the members of the design team said about the workshops.

Lesa Heebner and Mike Nichols were the only council members who were sitting on the council when it rejected Cedros Crossing in 2008.

“I think that the council stood up and did the right thing,” Heebner said. “NCTD at the time was not the NCTD it is today.”

Heebner encouraged community members to look over the current project and continue to provide feedback. She also thanked the transit district for collaborating with the city and listening to the community’s concerns.

“This looks a lot different from the other one — a whole lot different,” Heebner said.

“I’m pleased with the feedback and the good relationship that we’ve developed with NCTD. I know this is meeting your needs as well as our community’s needs.”

Nichols and his council colleagues agreed.

“You have made this a priority to have an all-inclusive attitude on this project, which is so different than it was before,” Nichols said to Matthew Tucker, executive director of NCTD. “I think that says a lot about the success that has happened to date.”