Who: Davis Planning Commission
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Community Chambers, 23 Russell Blvd.
Everything seems ready to go for the wrecking ball.
The plan is to demolish a one-story building on the southwest corner of Third and G streets downtown and build a two-story split between businesses and offices. The plan meets city goals for downtown infill, contains strategies for environmental upgrades and the building has no historical significance in the eyes of the Historical Resources Management Commission.
City planning staff are recommending that the Planning Commission give the project, at 239 G St., a thumbs-up Wednesday night, and the commission is often the last real stop for such building plans.
There’s just one problem: Some of the longtime existing retail and service businesses are effectively being pushed out. Plus, in a downtown increasingly dominated by restaurants, the retail and service business owners are finding themselves aced out of good locations — so far.
Milan Tran has owned Nails Only for 24 years. Now she faces an uncertain future. Tran said she only recently found out that the Davis-raised and Lafayette-based building owner, Anthony Ruebner, plans to demolish the building. While Jeeba Creative Jewelry Studio likely will secure a spot in the courtyard behind 239 G St., Tran received no such news.
“We worry a lot,” she said.
Next door at Razor’s Edge barber shop, Sukh Banwait finishes up the haircut of another loyal customer at the shop he has owned for 11 years. He bought it from a man who had owned it for 13 years prior to that.
The recent news that the building will be demolished comes at a bad time for Banwait. He’s busy finalizing plans for a long Indian vacation for nine members of his family. He has no idea where in Davis he could relocate. In the meantime, he has a list of more than 140 customers who pledged to find him wherever he moves.
Banwait doesn’t blame the building owner so much as the big-box stores that have popped up near Davis. He says those stores have made it difficult for the economy of the downtown to support locations for businesses like his.
“It’s just what we’re losing,” he said.
A couple of doors down at Tibet Nepal, Hera Shakya can barely contain his dismay despite having found a new location on F Street for his 22-year-old business.
“It won’t be the same energy,” he said.
Especially if Ruebner has his way with the building his family has been part owners of for 40 years. The idea to make a two-story building came out of a desire to improve the look of the drab building and turn the neighboring courtyard into a destination point with the help of existing artist tenants.
While the courtyard and the adjacent businesses, State Farm and Copyland, only need improvements done to their facade, 239 G St. needs to be demolished to see any significant improvement, he said. The foundation, built in the early 1900s, is just too old to be considered earthquake-safe, Ruebner said.
The second story of offices — turning 2,475 square feet into 4,974 square feet for the whole building— would make the project economically viable. The first story would remain for restaurants or other businesses.
“I’m not a large-scale developer,” Ruebner said. “It’s a labor of love.”
What about Razor’s Edge and Nails Only?
“We are actively engaged to find spaces for them,” Ruebner said.
If approved, the project would represent the fulfillment of stated city goals of infill development for downtown, without going beyond three stories.
— Reach Dave Ryan at 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews