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Second-Story Renaissance For Downtown Visalia

January 17,2018-

Bridge Will Tie Main Street Development To Parking Garage
Screen Shot 2018-01-12 at 8.20.55 AMDowntown Visalia has rows of empty second story buildings. With the district’s ground floors filled to the brim, developers are looking to both  provide access and improve the upper-story space.

Improving access is job one.

Developers Mario Celillo and Jonathon Van Ryn are ready to build a bridge from 213 W Main – some 15 feet across the alley to the West Acequia Parking Garage in the next few months to tie the building’s upper stories to easy access parking.

The bridge is a bridge to the future as the partners are marketing their 3-story building for retail on the ground floor, office use on the second story and residential or office use on the third. They plan to expand the space from its current 10,000sf to 15,000sf.

Top prospects may be a medical office use since the building is so close to Kaweah Delta.

“We want plenty of glass in the upper stories to show off the view of the mountains” says Mario. The well-located building is across  from the landmark Fox Theatre.

Construction of the bridge will be underway in the next few months now that the permit has been filed with the city.

Jonathon Van Ryn is the well-known restauranteur who launched Bravo Farms with four locations in the area.

These partners are among a small cadre of developers looking to tap the value of upper stories in Downton. Here a handful of projects are well underway in older, forgotten multi-story buildings that one by one are getting new life.

Consider the 100 block of Court Street where nine new residential units are in there works.This past summer the Visalia Planning Commission approved a request to convert this commercial building to residential use – adding nine units at 115 N Court, between Main and Center. The project is owned  Robert Shahan. The conversion is  the largest such multi-story residential complex in the Downtown.Before the conversion the stories sat empty.

Recently as work to remodel the building was underway, an old sign for The Heavenly Hatchery was exposed, a craft boutique that was open here until 1980 when they closed.

Over on Main another group is working withe City of Visalia to buy a vacant lot once used by Razzarri Ford to sell cars and plans to build a new multi-story building with retail on the ground floor and upscale residential on the top.

Across the street another local developer is working with the city to buy the old Main Street theatre and plans to renovate it.

Alos on Main developer Sam Sciacca has pioneered upper story residential use when he remodeled the former Links property a few years ago.

Further east east, developers have changed the face of the old Caskey Paper industrial building reconfiguring it into a multi-story, mixed-use building complete with gym and a popular eatery.

Back on Court Street a group has purchased the long vacant former county courthouse /annex and plans a multi-million dollar renovation turning an eyesore into a trendy boutique hotel and bringing back an art-deco gem from the dustbin of history.

Long time council member Greg Collins cheers the trend to utilize buildings we already have, particularly for more residential use.

“Visalia needs to grow up not out, it needs to fill in not spill out, and it needs to focus on fixing up and upgrading its existing urban areas, not creating new ones that fiscally burden future city councils.”

Also Collins advocates the sale of city-owned property to developers who will bring new activities or residents to the downtown – for example a new hotel where the planning department is today.  He says we need to promote development of the upper floors of downtown buildings and bring the Oval and East Main Street property owners into the PBID.

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