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Council to Hear Appeal of Aloha Lofts Project Above Tyler Florence Shop

Longtime Historical Society board member Barbara Ford asks city to reconsider project's approval, citing building's historical value.

If the downtown building that contains the Tyler Florence Shop and Vintage Wine & Spirits is going to get its first upstairs tenant since 1956, its owners are going to have to jump through one more hoop to make that happen.

The Mill Valley City Council is set to hear an appeal Monday of the Planning Commission's approval last month of the Aloha Lofts, a proposal to redevelop the second floor of 65 Throckmorton Ave. with four small residential units.

The appeal came from Barbara Ford, a longtime member of the Mill Valley Historical Society's board. Ford said that while she is fine with the residential proposal and the parking requirements for it, the owners' plans to significantly increase the number of windows along Throckmorton wasn't in keeping with the building's aesthetic over its long history downtown.

“I’m hoping that the City Council will side with me and try to keep the keep the historical face of this building as it’s been basically since 1893,” Ford said.

The building does indeed have a long and colorful past. 

It was built by Michael O’Shaughnessy, who owned it until he died in 1934, Ford said. It is widely known as the O’Shaughnessy Building, she said.

The upstairs space was condemned in 1956 after serving as a lodging house of sorts during World War II for employees of the Sausalito Shipyards and the Red Cross, operating under the name the Aloha Lido Hotel. Incredibly, the 4,000-square-foot space at Throckmorton and Corte Madera avenues has been empty ever since, through multiple building owners and many popular tenants in the storefronts below.

“It’s a great project,” Commissioner Steve Geiszler said last month. “It’s what we need downtown. I always assumed somebody was up there – I had no idea it was empty. It’s great that it’s being rehabbed.”

Despite its long history, the project’s historical preservation consultant determined that the redevelopment of the second floor “will have no potential effect on a historic resource” because the building had been altered so many times over the years. City officials agreed, and have recommended that the council deny Ford's appeal.

Lee Lum L.P., which has owned the building for nearly 20 years as well as the large parking lot behind it, actually garnered approval for the same project in 2004, but the plans stalled for economic reasons, according to Evan Cross, the project’s architect and a tenant in the building.

“They’ve been looking at make good use of the space for a decade,” Cross said.

The four rental units would be between 758 and 937 square feet in size. Cross said the units’ size would likely dictate that they would be moderately priced, though the owners had not yet decided if one of the units would be designated as affordable housing or if they would pay the required fee “in-lieu” of any affordable housing instead.

Even if the council denies the appeal, construction won’t likely begin until summer 2013 and is expected to last 6-8 months, Cross said. Preliminary analysis of the building indicates that the Tyler Florence Shop won’t need to temporarily close or move to accommodate the construction, Cross said, though the Vintage Wine & Spirits Shop “is likely due for a remodel.”

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Mari November 16, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Where can we find photos of the building's changes over the years? Just curious.
Jim Welte November 16, 2012 at 11:16 PM
The b&w photos in the middle and at the very end of the attached staff report on the appeal is all that I'm aware of.
Jack November 17, 2012 at 12:39 AM
Lets give Michael O’Shaughnessy his props. Perhaps California's greatest builder, Michael also designed Mill Valley's streets, lanes, stairways and water system, and he lived here (on Summit), overlooking his fine O’Shaughnessy Building for many years.

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