Opponents of the Chinatown project, a hotel-housing-shopping behemoth proposed for downtown SLO, got a chance to raise their concerns with the project’s architect directly. Mark Rawson, the architect who has increasingly become the face of Copeland-family-backed projects spoke before a group of about 30 people, Sept. 2, at Steynberg Gallery. Rawson’s presentation highlighted the project’s walkways and other community oriented features, but historic preservation seemed to be the issue on most minds in attendance.
The project has been heavily scrutinized for, among other things, its proposed height. The hotel, which was originally envisioned as a five-story luxury inn, was reduced to three stories and relocated to Monterey Street in a more current version. The whole project now is less than 50 feet tall (although opponents still argue that the grade on March Street will make the three-story hotel seem too imposing and inconsistent with the historic character of downtown).
For members of Save Our Downtown—a grassroots group, which has frequently criticized the project for being the type of development from which SLO’s downtown needs saving—the historical relevance of two buildings planted in the path of progress have remained an issue.
Rawson did little to ease their fears, mainly that the old Sauer Bakery building (also known as the Pier 1 building) and the Blackstone Hotel, both on Monterey Street, would be demolished if the cost of retrofitting is too high, or if the buildings are deemed historically unimportant.
Part of the problem, Rawson explained, is that the historic impact of removing, remodeling, or restoring the buildings has not been determined. The project is currently held up, waiting for an Historic Impact Report, which was requested by the City Council in addition to the Environmental Impact Report. That report is expected to be finished before the end of the year, Rawson said. Eventually the council will have to make a determination on the value of the buildings.