Developers unveil plans for Solana Beach train station development

Community members learned about four competing proposals for the development of the Solana Beach Transit Center during two workshops last week.

With approval from the Solana Beach City Council, the North County Transit District solicited and received proposals for a mixed-use development at the train station and adjacent property, both of which are owned by the district.

The city has worked closely with the district on the outline of the project, which includes preserving the existing Quonset hut-shaped train station, though perhaps repurposing it, adding new uses and expanding parking, while adhering to the community’s character, including nearby activities and architecture.

“True collaboration between the city and NCTD has allowed us to get to this point, and I look forward to welcoming a development partner to the team who believes in our mutual desires for a successful project that complements our city’s unique seaside character and scale,” said Councilman Mike Nichols in a press release prior to the workshops.

The train station and adjacent 1.5-acre site sit at the corner of Cedros Avenue and Lomas Santa Fe Drive. The development is expected to be an extension of Cedros Design District, a popular destination for the coastal city, complete with restaurants, shops and other activities, including the Belly Up Tavern, a live music venue.

Four prospective developers presented their ideas for the site during a Nov. 19 workshop at Solana Vista School and a Nov. 21 workshop at Skyline Elementary School. Chesnut Properties of Solana Beach, Dahlin Group of Solana Beach, Strategic Assets Group of San Diego and Creative Housing Associates of Los Angeles displayed their concepts and discussed their proposals.

Representatives from each group stressed that their proposals were still in the early stages, and that they intended to gather input from residents, the city and the transit district.

“We’re a part of the community and we care about the community,” said Nancy Keenan, president of the Dahlin Group, which is located on South Cedros Avenue. “We’re here to listen.”

Keenan said Dahlin Group’s proposal features an “iconic restaurant” at Lomas Santa Fe south of the train station, the “gateway” to the complex. The station would be preserved but converted to a civic and events venue. The project also includes an urban plaza and outdoor marketplace pavilion for food vendors and events such as farmers markets and festivals. Additionally, the proposal includes 96 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.

Michael Dieden, president of Creative Housing Associates, proposed a development called The Cove at Solana Beach. The concept includes an art house cinema, boutique hotel, neighborhood food market and 50 residential units. The highlight of the project is an automated parking system that uses hydraulic lifts and would take up half the space.

“It’s intelligent parking for the 21st century,” Dieden said.

No matter what was proposed, Dieden said, the community would ultimately shape his group’s project.

“We’re getting people’s ideas and then we’re going to refine our proposal based on that input,” he said.

Strategic Assets Group, which is led by local businessmen Joe Balla and John DeWald, brought a large-scale model of their proposed Cedros Market concept. Plans include retail, restaurant, office and residential space. The project also features an additional bridge, enhancing pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular access, and three levels of underground parking.

“What we have endeavored to do with this plan is to protect the history and flavor of the Cedros Avenue Design District, while creating a future that will be enjoyed by all,” Balla said in a press release. “The Cedros Market project is near and dear to our hearts because we are passionate about what happens in our community, and what gets built here.”

Chesnut Properties of Solana Beach proposed a development called The Station Solana Beach.

The proposal was one of the better-defined projects, featuring about 72,700 square feet including the existing train station. The proposed small-scale cluster of buildings included a 12,450-square-foot boutique-style beach hotel with 12 rooms, three restaurants totaling 18,450 square feet of space, 14,600 square feet in retail space, 9,600 square feet in residential space with 10 units, 7,600 square feet in office space, a 7,000-square-foot community center and the existing 3,000-square-foot train station building.

“This fits within the fabric of the existing community,” said Nicholas Olavi Alanen of Gensler, the lead architectural firm attached to The Station proposal.

Representatives from the city and a transit district committee will ultimately select their preferred proposal, which will be subject to approval by the transit district board and the California Coastal Commission.