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The latest proposal to develop the train station property in Solana Beach is revealed last month. Courtesy rendering
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Train station project back on track in Solana Beach

SOLANA BEACH — Plans to develop the Solana Beach Transit Station property are back on track, with the latest proposal revealed at the Sept. 28 city council meeting.

Several area developers and architects, including Solana Beach resident Torgen Johnson, partnered to create Cedros Market, a phased project featuring restaurant, retail and office space, a 45-room boutique hotel and about 30 residential units.

North County Transit District, which owns the 5.6-acre site on North Cedros Avenue at Lomas Santa Fe Drive, received four submittals in response to a request for proposals. The plans were presented in November 2015 at a public open house.

Cedros Market was ranked the highest among the submittals.

“We are excited to be a finalist and have been impressed with the cooperation and teamwork between the city of Solana Beach and NCTD,” said co-developer Joe Balla of Strategic Assets Group Inc. “I think this bodes well for Cedros Market becoming a very successful project.”

To create the development, Johnson said the group used a 35-page design guide, the surrounding commercial area, NCTD’s ridership needs and input from “anyone and everyone in the community who had an idea or concern about the site.”

He said the goal was to complete a 20-year vision of seamlessly reconnecting the east and west sides of Solana Beach that are split by the tracks.

The team was sensitive to context, scale, character, traffic, parking and preserving views along the Coast Highway 101 corridor “while creating an attractive commercial destination for this unique transit-oriented development site,” Johnson said.

“Maintaining our coastal beach town quality of life while providing for urban infill development of this complexity is quite a challenge,” he said, adding that the proposal is still very much a work in progress.

“But (it’s) one that should ultimately be an affirmation and manifestation of the type of development for the site that the community … has been aspiring to for over 20 years,” Johnson added. “It’s very important that we do this right.”

Phase one will include plazas, open space and the retail, office and restaurant components in one- and two-story buildings, many of which will appear to be industrial buildings and Quonset huts similar to those on South Cedros Avenue and Coast Highway.

“The Cedros Market design concept includes multiple buildings (that) will appear as if they evolved over time, rather than constructed at once,” Balla said. “We were purposeful in our design to orient our buildings to encourage a relationship and connectivity with the adjacent commercial uses.

“We have been very mindful of the placement and scale of Cedros Market structures,” he added. “Our goal is to protect the character of the existing neighborhoods … and have a feel that there may have been multiple, separate lots with buildings that were repurposed for current use.”

The existing train station will remain the highest building on the site but will be repurposed as a restaurant.

“This project definitely does have the potential to be a key connector in the community,” Councilman Mike Nichols said, noting that it doesn’t seem “too urban for the environment in which it sits.”

He said he liked the mix of one- and two-story buildings but cautioned the development team about overusing repurposed buildings.

A pedestrian and vehicular bridge will be added over the tracks at Estrella Street to connect the north end of the project to Coast Highway 101. The hotel and residential units will be north of the new bridge, comprising phase two.

The project will provide about 1,280 spaces in three levels of parking, some underground.

The city has been discussing projects for the site for more than two decades. A controversial $72 million development, known as Cedros Crossing, was in the works for seven years.

That ended in late 2008 after council members determined the mixed-use project wasn’t compatible with the city’s general plan.

A redesigned project was requested but never submitted. Since then a new management team has taken over at NCTD.

“I really appreciate the collaboration,” Councilwoman Lesa Heebner said. “I’m pleased with the feedback and the good relationship that we’ve developed with NCTD. I know this is meeting (its) needs as well as our community’s needs.”

The final project is still being negotiated by an NCTD selection committee. City Manager Greg Wade said the expectation is that an exclusive agreement will be announced “in short order.”

Once that happens the project will be re-presented to the city — likely no sooner than spring — for permit and environmental document approvals, at which time hearings will be held to garner additional public input.