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Sept. 29--A design team presented its top-ranked proposal this week for transforming the Solana Beach Transit Center into an eclectic downtown hub that would feature three restaurants, a boutique hotel, retail stores, offices, homes, and a three-story parking garage.

The plans are the latest version of a project that's been in the works more than a decade and would cover a three-block, 5.6-acre site owned by North County Transit District along North Cedros Avenue between Lomas Santa Fe Drive and Cliff Street.

A $72 million project presented to the Solana Beach City Council in 2008 "died on the vine" after the council found its proposed 141 apartments, large parking structure and other features were too much for the site and not in keeping with the neighborhood.

About 30 apartments are included in the Cedros Market concept presented Wednesday by a group of mostly Solana Beach businessmen.

Architect Torgen Johnson, a Solana Beach resident leading the design team, said the new proposal closely follows the city's 35-page design guidelines for the site. The size, scale and layout of the proposed buildings will be similar to those already in nearby neighborhoods, with the goal of bringing the successful renaissance of South Cedros Avenue in recent years to the largely undeveloped area north of Lomas Santa Fe Drive.

"This project is really a key connector that this city has badly needed," Johnson said, indicating the design and scope of the project would help link surrounding neighborhoods together.

"The site's large area and significant location has the potential to change the character of downtown Solana Beach," he said.

The existing train station, which opened in 1994, is an award-winning iconic structure modeled after the barrel-shaped, prefabricated Quonset huts built widely during World War II. It will remain, but is to be remodeled into the flagship restaurant on the property.

The other buildings will all be one or two stories, scaled to preserve existing views of downtown and the surrounding hillsides, developers said. The three-story parking garage will be partially below ground, with 750 parking spaces for transit district commuters and 325 spaces for residents, shoppers, office employees and visitors. The development also includes 89 diagonal street-parking spaces.

Solana Beach is the only San Diego County city where the train tracks are below street level, lowered into a 28-foot-deep trench for almost two miles through town.

Also proposed is a new bridge for vehicles and pedestrians across the tracks at Estrella Street, which would connect North Cedros Avenue to Highway 101.

The project would have 48,000 square feet of commercial space including the restaurants, shops and offices, about 30,000 square feet for the hotel, and another 30,000 square feet for residences.

No costs or construction dates were included as part of the design team's presentation Wednesday. Negotiations are still underway with the transit district's selection committee, which is expected to make a recommendation to the district's board of directors by the end of the year.

The Cedros Market proposal was one of four possible plans presented during an informal public open house Nov.19 at Solana Vista Elementary School.

Lesa Heebner and Mike Nichols are the only council members who were on the panel when it rejected the previous proposal known as Cedros Crossing in 2008.

"This looks a lot different from the other one," Heebner said Wednesday.

It's important for Solana Beach residents to get a good look at the current project and weigh in with their opinions, she said, and she complimented the transit district for its work and its response to the city's concerns about the site.

"I'm pleased with the feedback and the good relationship we've developed with NCTD," Heebner said.

Other council members thanked the transit district for offering a look at the latest developments in the plan.

"I feel like it's a little Christmas present that's slowly being unwrapped," said Councilwoman Ginger Marshall. "I look forward to seeing this come to life."

 

 

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