On Tuesday evening, the latest plans for a proposed project at 25A Orinda Way were presented and approved by the Planning Commission, but not after lengthy discussion.
In an effort to address issues previously voiced by the Planning Commission and the community, developers Dana and Paul Ugenti of Tandem Real Estate Company made several design changes to the project. The front facade of the building has been pushed back three feet so the sidewalk now measures between 11” and 8.6” wide, giving a bit more breathing room to pedestrians and outdoor diners while protecting the existing trees which play an important role in screening the structure.
A fourth design motif has been added in an attempt to break up the visual massing of the front of the structure, and the applicant worked with the city to reintroduce a “parklet” in front of the building. This is a temporary structure that will sit on what is now three parking stalls on Orinda Way, and include seating for the public.
Surprisingly, there were few questions or comments from the Planning Commission, although they did mention the importance of the master sign program, and requested that the architect take another pass at the “Spanish Mission” portion of the front facade. They also asked about the second story faux “windows” and how visible parked cars will be through them.
Speakers were evenly divided between unabashed supporters and outright critics. Supporters spoke favorably of the use of space, the aesthetics and the effort to energize foot traffic on Orinda Way. Critics dinged the use of space, the “cheap” design, and the inability of the retail bays to attract tenants that would energize this part of town.
Ultimately, a motion was made to approve the project ... with three achievable conditions. The conditions were the inclusion of an electronic parking stall counter visible from Orinda Way, Planning Commission approval of the master sign program, and further design development of the “Spanish Mission” portion of the facade. The motion was passed in a vote of five in favor, one opposed.
Now that the project has been approved by the Planning Commission, a commercial use permit will be issued and the developers will move swiftly to secure financing and begin construction. To secure financing, they will need letters of intent from tenants for 50 percent of the 18,100 square feet of leasable space. This is where you come in.
Like many of you, we have a keen interest in the leasing strategy for this space and know it is critical to the success of the project. In our meeting with the Ugentis, Dana, who is the lead on leasing, said she is working to attract tenants that will draw a wide range of residents downtown. She seems to recognize that many young families who have moved here from San Francisco and Oakland are missing amenities they traded for Orinda’s great schools and safe neighborhoods.
WUDO is advocating for businesses that will excite families and bring some evening options to the Village end of town, and that will stay open on the weekends. Ideas have included a kid-friendly “play cafe”, a Super Duper (burgers and shakes), Mixt Greens (salads), Pacific Catch, a One Medical Group outpost, a shared workspace, a bike or sportswear shop, clothing boutique, fitness or dance studios and more. The Ugentis have made it clear that a mix of national chains and local retailers are needed to make the project profitable. And they say they welcome our ideas.
Send In Your Ideas
Many of you have contacted us to share your ideas and we have passed some of those along, and we ask that you continue to provide your feedback directly to Tandem. If you know of businesses that would be great additions to Orinda, now is the time to speak up. Right now. We urge you to email your thoughts Dana Ugenti at firstname.lastname@example.org. She says she will work with Tandem’s commercial leasing agency, SRS Real Estate Partners, to attract the purveyors Orindans desire.
But they only know what we want if we tell them.