I know. An effort to keep Chevron and the McDonald's fast-food restaurant are probably not the big news when it comes to the massive undertaking to develop 5.3 acres of key downtown real estate around Mt. Diablo Boulevard and Locust Street. After all, there is the likelihood that this plan will encourage the development of high-end shops and upper-floor residential and boutique hotel units. Another top priority for revitalizing this part of downtown is a new parking garage, as well as courtyards and attractive walkways, including the transformation of Commercial Lane into something other than a Dumpster-lined back alley.
I mention Chevron and McDonald's because these are two businesses that have expressed a strong interest in being part of the plan, according to a Community Development Department staff report prepared for a special City Council study session Thursday. The report mentions no other retailers, and adds that the plan remains flexible as to what exactly we'll see going into this area. That is, whether we'll see new condos go into a building at the corner of Mt. Diablo Boulevard and Locust Street, or whether Walnut Creek will be graced with the presence of a boutique hotel, or designer shops selling Gucci and Prada.
Thursday's study session takes place at 5 p.m. After today's session, the city council will hold a final hearing, or hearings, before adopting the plan and certifying a final environmental impact report on May 18.
The city has been studying this part of downtown for more than six years, and the complete redevelopment of this area is a good five to 10 years off.
The parcels being looked at include: the now vacant Mark Morris Tire building and parking lot; the Locust Street post office; and a city-owned, 15-space parking lot at the corner of North Main Street and Mt. Diablo Boulevard. Across Locust Street and on over to North California Boulevard, the parcels under review include those occupied by: the former Home Chef; the converted Victorian; Z Gallerie; Big 5 sporting goods store; the Chevron gas station; and McDonald's. "Several of these sites, such as the Z Gallerie building, have redeveloped and have become attractive additions to the downtown area,' the report says.
Well, if the gas station stays, Chevron says it will do some improvements to make it more attractive. City staff says the gas station provides a "valuable service" to residents and visitors. The existing McDonald's building would have to go. No free-standing building or drive-thru allowed. But the restaurant could relocate to another building planned for that site.
A lot of us are probably looking forward to a more attractive building replacing the Mark Morris Tire building and parking lot. A nice looking building with interesting storefront businesses or restaurants would be just the thing--don't you think?--to eliminate that supposed "Mason-Dixon" line of Mt. Diablo Boulevard that divides Walnut Creek's south and north. (Thanks again to "destination guru" Roger Brooks, hired by the Downtown Business Association, for that "Mason-Dixon" terminology!)
I'm also intrigued by the idea of a boutique hotel going into downtown Walnut Creek. I'm not sure who would stay there. Maybe it would be people from out of the area, who I have hear, currently book rooms at the Lafayette Park Hotel, just so they can venture over to Walnut Creek to shop. Of course, I'm sure there are a lot of Walnut Creek residents who wouldn't mind sending their annoying in-laws to stay at a stylish downtown hotel.
If there is to be a boutique hotel, we could all enjoy a rooftop bar, especially if it had a view of Mount Diablo.
Meanwhile, whatever happens with this plan, I hope the developers don't think Walnut Creek needs more med spas.
Oops! There goes any potential med spa advertising dollars.