For 56 years, the second floor of the downtown building that contains the Tyler Florence Shop and Vintage Wine & Spirits has sat vacant.
The space was condemned in 1956 after a colorful history in which it served as a lodging house 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.
That’s set to change in 2013, as the Mill Valley Planning Commission this week approved a plan to redevelop the second floor of 65 Throckmorton Ave. into four small residential units called the Aloha Lofts.
“It’s a great project,” Commissioner Steve Geiszler said before the commission’s unanimous approval. “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.”
“I love this project,” Commission Chair David Rand added. “It’s exactly what we’re trying to do in downtown Mill Valley.”
The building was built in 1908 by Michael O’Shaughnessy, who owned it until he died in 1934, according to Barbara Ford of the Mill Valley Historical Society. It is widely known as the O’Shaughnessy Building, she said.
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.
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 primary focus of the commission’s deliberations was parking. Because Lee Lum owns the lot behind the building, it can easily accommodate the city’s requirement for 8 dedicated parking spaces for the four units, city officials said. A parking study conducted in September determined that the lot is not heavily used.
“And this is a site that works very well for potential residents who would not even need to have a car,” Planning Director Mike Moore 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.
The biggest aesthetic change to the building itself will be the installation of much larger windows above Throckmorton in an effort to allow more light into the second floor, Cross said.
“We’re trying to make it look less like a boarding house and more like a place where people would live downtown,” Cross said.
Construction won’t likely begin until summer 2013 and is expected to last 6-8 months, he 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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