Big Plans for Former Bank of America Building

(Rendering courtesy of Ben Zarrin)
The proposed renovation at 31 Orinda Way will turn the former Bank of America space into three restaurants at ground level and add a second story for office space. The restaurants will share a rear deck on the first level, facing San Pablo Creek and projected to feature a bar and seating for 28 patrons.

    Wilder resident Ben Zarrin’s love of the Orinda community is the driving force behind his visions for the former Bank of America Financial Center at 31 Orinda Way.
    Zarrin teamed up with his friend and neighbor, Mo Mashoon, owner of Mash Gas & Food, to purchase the vacant building. They are combining their extensive experience in business, real estate, design and construction to “create a place where great memories, life, positive energy and good times are born and everlasting,” according to Zarrin.
    “The timing worked out well for us,” said Zarrin, founder of Paymun Real Estate, Design and Development. This bank branch, next to the post office, closed in March 2022.
    Opportunities offered due to the vacancy of the circa-1964 building excited Zarrin as the availability of commercial space in Orinda is limited. Zarrin conceptualizes a two-story structure with office space occupying the second level along with a 1,717-square-foot 
    The proposed renovation will add square footage to the ground-level for three collocated restaurants, which will share a rear deck with restaurant seating and a bar facing San Pablo Creek. The deck is one of the first attempts within the city to orient activity toward the creek, according to the planning commission.
    The addition of a second-story designed for office use with multiple decks, including one elevated deck, is proposed and subject to review.
    The project received support from Friends of Orinda Creeks (FOC), a charitable, nonprofit organization working to preserve and restore Orinda’s watersheds and educate the community about the care and ecology of the creeks. Along with cleaning the creeks and planting native riparian species, FOC works alongside the City of Orinda to align the restoration of San Pablo Creek with the Downtown Precise Plan.
    “We’re excited about it, like everyone else is,” said Tom MacKinnon, Orinda resident and FOC board member.
    There is enthusiasm for the project, both in the community and among the planning commission members which unanimously approved the plan, with some conditions, in its February 14 meeting. The proposed project’s lack of public access to the creek, except through restaurant patron-oriented spaces, is a “real concern,” said MacKinnon during a recent public hearing
    Commenting upon the popularity of the trail adjacent to the creek, MacKinnon asked, on FOC’s behalf, for the applicant, listed as Orinda Way, LLC, to include creek access from one or both access points in a revised proposal.
    “We hope in turning toward the creek, the creek isn’t privatized and that the public isn’t prevented from enjoying it,” said Michael Bowen, president of FOC.
    The proposed back deck area will wrap around two protected oak trees, preserving and maintaining them. One Coast Live Oak tree, situated directly behind the building, is in declining health and is slated for removal.
    Another hurdle to clear before the project comes to fruition is an exception for an increase to the building’s nonconforming encroachment into the minimum side-yard setbacks. An outdoor dining permit for a proposed 28 seats must also be granted before a building permit can be issued.
    In putting the redevelopment proposal together, Paymun contacted over 40 restaurant owners. Possible on-site services mentioned in the proposal include a coffee shop, dining and cocktail options and a brewery. Zarrin expressed a desire to attract tenants which would host social and fitness activities.
    “We’ve hand selected our tenants so we ensure they all have similar visions and values in creating a place where diversity, equality, inclusion, strong culture, quality service, quality food, good vibes and great energy exists,” said Zarrin. They are in the midst of contract negotiations with the tenants and will be able to disclose their names once they are completed.
    Zarrin believes The Paymun Building will change downtown Orinda.
    “It’s going to be a place where good things happen,” said Zarrin.

Andrea Madison can be reached at

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