Plans changed for Merge development in Carmel Valley

By Karen Billing

Developer Gary Levitt has announced major changes to his Merge development, a modern, mixed-use retail and residential project planned for the corner of Carmel Country Road and Carmel Mountain Road.

The changes were made to address neighbor complaints.

“We did listen,” said Levitt, revealing his new Merge plans at the Sept. 18 Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s regional issues subcommittee meeting. “We’ve taken a big step back and looked at how to do [the project]with a different approach.”

The previous design featured 10 townhomes with detached garages and private yards, 21 residential for-sale flats, and more than 35,000 square feet of retail and commercial space. The project also had a central green area where all of the different uses could “merge,” and featured 241 parking spaces in a surface lot and an underground garage.

Due to complaints from neighbors, the re-imagined Merge has 22 townhomes and 31,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor with office space above. There will be no residential over retail, no central green space and the project will have 150 parking spaces; 30 percent will be underground and tagged for office use.

He said the very modern architecture originally proposed will likely change to some degree as well. Details are few so far as the plan is still being redone, but Levitt said he hopes to return to the planning board in October with any updates.

“I still believe we can create a very special place,” Levitt said.

Levitt said he would like the retail element to be a “neighborhood place” and said they would love to attract tenants such as nice restaurants, a good breakfast spot, a sandwich place and a coffee shop.

The developers will seek an amendment to the existing permit approved in 2007 for 20,000 square feet of commercial retail in five buildings with a surface parking lot.

Instead of the box store buildings, Levitt said Merge aimed to create a “true mixed use” center use on the 4-acre lot.

Despite the changes, some neighbors still had objections to the access to the project being off the residential streets Dry Cliff Trail and Corum Court.

Levitt said access to the project is not allowed off Carmel Mountain Road or Carmel Country Road, even in the plan approved in 2007.

Fran Kennedy, a Highlands Village resident who circulated a petition against the project, said that many of the people who signed the petition like the new design and appreciate Levitt for addressing their concerns.