First Major Commercial Project in 45 Years Heads to City Council

(Contributed Photo)
Concept drawing of The Station, a building development proposal for 25A Orinda Way.

    With the Planning Commission’s approval, plans for a 19,350 square-foot mixed-use downtown development named The Station are headed to the City Council July 7 to begin the approval process.
    Coined an Orinda Mercantile, the project includes a front courtyard and patio, an indoor market hall and Orangetheory Fitness, the anchor tenant.
    In 2015, Paul Ugenti submitted plans to develop the site at 25A Orinda Way, which has been vacant since 1998 when the BP Service Station closed. Approved by the City Council in 2017, the project was never built. In January, he submitted a revised proposal.
    If approved, the project will be the first downtown development since the Vintage House building at 25 Orinda Way, next door to The Station, was constructed in 1975.
    Both the original and revised designs include retail and restaurants on the ground floor. The latest iteration includes a larger building but uses 52-pecent lot coverage compared to a 95-percent lot coverage with the 2015 plan. The mezzanine and second floor will house offices, with mechanical equipment on the rooftop.
    Instead of a second floor and rooftop parking as originally proposed, there will be a subterranean garage with 36 spaces versus 69 spaces in the original plan. According to Ugenti, “this project would generate one-third less parking than the previous proposal.”
    Based on Orinda Municipal Code, the project requires 86 parking spaces, 50 more than planned. A variance approved by the City Council on Jan. 21 allows developers to build fewer parking spaces than required by paying a fee. Ugenti and Aaron Cohen, who submitted the revised project application Jan. 7, plan to pay the $469,200 parking in-lieu fee. They are the first developers to apply for the variance.
    Exception permits will be required as the project does not conform to the minimum front, side, and rear setback requirements. It exceeds the maximum building height by two feet, ten inches and the freestanding wall height limit by three feet.
    The inclusion of the Orangetheory Fitness center generated several public comments at the June 9 Planning Commission meeting.
    Adam Foster, senior planner, said the city received more than 100 letters in support of the project. “A common theme of many of the letters is that the residents would rather utilize an Orangetheory Fitness here in Orinda rather than travel elsewhere for this use. Additionally, many of the letters indicate a desire for Orinda residents to keep their dollars here in Orinda.”
    Conversely, Tiffany Aubrey said Orangetheory Fitness is a direct competitor to Informa, and with eight fitness centers in town, this would be a “saturation of a single industry.”
    Commissioner Ann Parnigoni said she is concerned with the reduction in parking spaces and does not support Orangetheory Fitness. She said she prefers family-owned health facilities.
    Acting Chairman Willy Mautner said the plaza is an incredible space and “we’re approving the building, not the tenants except Orangetheory. Hopefully, the project will be occupied and vibrant.”

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