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Prime location still the pits – Plans to develop lower State St. corner in the works

By   /   Friday, March 6th, 2009  /   Comments Off on Prime location still the pits – Plans to develop lower State St. corner in the works

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The incomparable view of the Santa Barbara waterfront is something tourists flock to see, and soon they may have something decent to look at in the other direction as well.

The construction site taking up three of the corners at the intersection of State and Mason streets has been a barren wasteland in recent years, but Santa Barbara Community Development director Paul Casey said he expects to get development plans from property owner Mountain Funding “any day now.”

Original plans called for the construction of a timeshare condominium complex called La Entrada de Santa Barbara, but officials said that’s been scrapped. Exactly what will be built — and when — is still unknown.

Casey said the new plans will improve the view by reducing the size of the parking garage by one story and creating underground parking. The company is proposing a few changes to the plans former owner Bill Levy got approved by City Hall and the Coastal Commission eight years ago.

“Mountain Funding is making a few tweaks to the original plans … updating them to make the project more economical,” Casey said.

Mountain Funding agreed to improve the condition of the property while they continue to pursue full construction financing. Ray Wicken of Mountain Funding said that although “the project formerly referred to as Entrada” is “moving pretty slowly, we don’t have any issues, and we’re getting under way with the parking garage.”

“I’m certainly unhappy with the condition the property is currently in and frustrated with the lack of progress,” Casey said. “So Mountain Funding has been asked to make some improvements.”

Casey said the North Carolina-based company will replace the fencing on State and Mason streets with a type of green wood fencing consistent with the fencing around Fess Parker’s site. This would also include replacing the fencing between the Harbor View Inn and the California Hotel.

Additionally, Wicken agreed to do away with most of the area’s telltale signs of construction; dirt will be removed from view, de-watering piping will be relocated and the construction trailer will eventually find its way to an alternate location. Trees will be placed behind the new fencing and graffiti will be removed, which Casey said would “hopefully clean up the mess.”

Casey said some of these tasks are already in progress and the contractor for Mountain Funding has been instructed to get moving on the other items. He told the mayor and the City Council that he would “continue to monitor this closely, ensure follow through and suggest further measures as appropriate.”

Mountain Funding is also going to spiff up the adjacent Hot Spots building, where the coffee shop and visitor information center is reopening. He said the building has been empty for four years, ever since the owner vacated it to make room for Levy’s original plans.

Mark Mattingly of Pacifica Commercial Realty can remember when the property last changed hands in 2007.

“It was a catastrophe,” he said. “The inability of the developer to get Entrada de Santa Barbara off the ground as a timeshare development on lower State” was what forced Levy to file for bankruptcy and surrender control of the property to Mountain Funding. “As I understand it, the cost of construction was so high that they couldn’t really build it, sell the units and make a profit.”

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