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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Downtown Moorpark Ready for a Makeover

On a recent Saturday morning, about 50 Moorpark residents and merchants gathered under the gazebo on High Street, in the heart of Moorpark’s downtown district, to listen to a trio of men sell them on a remake of the neighborhood. Daly Group Inc.’s Vincent Daly and Entitlements and Acquisitions Manager Jasch Janowicz — accompanied by their architect on the project, Mark DiCecco of Moorpark’s DiCecco Architecture — laid out their intentions for a commercial mixed-use project they are proposing for 192 High St., which they’ve dubbed High Street Depot. “It gives the city the chance to become a downtown Los Olivos,” Daly said, referring to the quaint town in the Santa Ynez Valley with an old California-style commercial district. Daly Group plans to create 50 to 75 residential units on two stories above a ground-floor commercial space in a long, narrow and horizontal strip of property parallel to High Street, downtown Moorpark’s main drag. The parcel borders Metrolink land and Daly and DiCecco explained how they are working closley with representatives of Ventura County Transportation Commission and Metrolink’s parent entity, Southern California Regional Rail Authority, to develop their concept in concert with the neighboring Metrolink station. A big part of the plan is to create an outdoor plaza for movie nights and community events. Daly said he wants to build everything to conform around that village green, which will also feature retail outlet to get a meal and drink craft beer. Westlake Village-headquartered Daly Group plans to invest $25 million to $35 million into creating High Street Depot. Daly promises the residential units will be upscale and modern, with a “nice, cool vibe” and contemporary cabinetry. “(Applicants are) going to say, ‘Wow, this is different, I haven’t seen anything like this in Moorpark’,” Daly said. Daly, DiCecco and Janowicz also gave residents a tour of the 2.14-acre site, with its aging train house. “The plan is to remove the existing yellow granary building and construct a collection of mixed-use buildings that meet current building codes,” Janowicz said. “The new buildings will incorporate architectural and design elements influenced by the granary building and other significant buildings along High Street.” Seeking approval While there is no completion date yet, the project will take 12 months at the earliest to get through the bureaucratic process for approvals and land entitlements. Once ground is broken, construction may take up to 18 months “because of a slowdown in labor,” Daly said, and phasing won’t be in the cards. “I normally don’t phase,” he said. “It costs the developer more money but also disrupts High Street more,” added DiCecco. Daly, who will not include low-income units, believes these market-rate units will be at a premium since area supply is low while demand remains high. “Vacancy rates are essentially zero,” he said. DiCecco will incorporate local flavor and mythos into his design to fill out downtown Moorpark as a classical, quaint Southern California city center. At the meeting, the Daly team evoked downtown Los Olivos more than once, as well as Santa Barbara’s State Street; the latter regarding its Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and flavor. “That’s the intent,” DiCecco said. “Those (Santa Barbara) buildings got built over time. What we really want to achieve here is to make it look like it’s something that’s been here for a while.” When an attendee suggested turning to town historian Michael Winters for vintage photographs, DiCecco was already familiar with Winters’ book on Moorpark history. At the July 7 public meeting, the developers recorded feedback from community members. “None of the applications have been filed yet, none of them are going to be made today,” DiCecco said, assuring attendees. “We’re getting you in at the ground floor of the process.” The local architect singled out Moorpark municipal workers in attendance: Principal Planner David Bobardt, City Engineer Sean Corrigan and Community Services Manager Jessica Sandifer. “The city is an excellent partner,” DiCecco said. The elephant in the gazebo among residents in attendance: how to mitigate train noise inside those residential units. A Steeple Hill resident observed that “the freight trains make more noise than the trans trains.” DiCecco, also a Steeple Hill resident, is researching various forms of soundproofing. “We are working with the train people, we have to negotiate with the DOT anyway,” DiCecco said. Daly added, “People who want to live here, they’re going to know the train exists. They’re going to celebrate it.” The public meeting was held across the street from Cactus Patch restaurant, as was Hugh Riley, executive vice president of Moorpark Foundation for the Arts, located at nearby High Street Arts Center. Such locals are the true stakeholders in having High Street Depot in their commercial midst. Riley pointed out that on sold-out nights at his senior-skewing community theater, “we have 80 or 90 cars right there. We don’t have people who are able to walk eight or nine blocks.” DiCecco does not think the site will call for either underground or podium-style parking. “We’re going to provide all the parking on our property,” Daly said, adding that the city of Moorpark will also address parking. Curating tenants Daly Group currently has several developments in Ventura County. Two recent ground-up projects — ocean-view apartments at Kalorama Street and Thompson Boulevard; and the 24-unit Santa Clara Courts at 72 W. Santa Clara St. — are near downtown Ventura. Daly plans to list some of his existing holdings, such as a 101-unit apartment building in Oxnard, for sale. The reason, he said, is that he sees his firm transitioning from broader multifamily to more ambitious boutique buildings such as the mixed-use High Street Depot. Daly, who lives nearby in Thousand Oaks and has four children (including two millennials) sees his High Street enterprise as promising for 30-somethings looking for housing with access to mass transit for an easy, car-free commute. “It’s something we want to do,” Daly told attendees before him. “We don’t have to do this. We feel like a steward of the property.” He wants to make sure his endeavor “fits what the community wants but also it has to make sense.” Daly intends the curate tenants at the site. “I get to choose and it’s not going to be (based on best business sheet prospects),” Daly said emphatically, adding that he wants his retail tenants to complement existing businesses nearby and not throw them in direct competition with local bars and coffee shops. “We’re in it for the whole way,” said Daly, whose firm will manage the site. Ultimately, Team Daly wants to create an attractive anchor for downtown Moorpark. “We want to make this somewhere that is more of a destination than a place to drive through,” DiCecco said. Overall, the project’s prospects seemed to excite the locals. “We’re glad that you’re here,” Riley told the hosts, “and we hope you make it work.”

Michael Aushenker
Michael Aushenker
A graduate of Cornell University, Michael covers commercial real estate for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. Prior to the Business Journal, Michael covered the community and entertainment beats as a staff writer for various newspapers, including the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, The Palisadian-Post, The Argonaut and Acorn Newspapers. He has also freelanced for the Santa Barbara Independent, VC Reporter, Malibu Times and Los Feliz Ledger.

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