Two historic buildings in San Luis Obispo will be torn down to make way for the Chinatown project, following City Council approval of the demolition on Nov. 17. The proposed removal of the Sauer Bakery building and the Blackstone Hotel next door was controversial, since both buildings were recognized by the city as historically significant. Ultimately, the council approved the demolition but is requiring that the old bricks be saved for re-use in the new construction and for the actual oven from the Sauer Bakery to be left intact and on display in a new building.
The Chinatown project, which is the most recent downtown revitalization venture proposed by the Copeland Family, has raised eyebrows because of its size and location. It will likely cover three quarters of a block, and it’s directly across the street from the Mission. The project also took heat because of the historic buildings, and because much of the project will be built on a city-owned parking lot. While the final project design has not been submitted, it will have a high-end hotel, several storefronts, underground parking, and either apartments or condos.
The council approved an Environmental Impact Report for the project almost a year ago, but stipulated that a more in-depth study be conducted to see if the historic buildings could be re-used, rehabilitated, or somehow incorporated into the new project. Two independent consultants looked at the buildings and made conflicting recommendations in three areas: whether the bricks should be saved, whether the oven should be saved, and whether the fa¡ade of the Blackstone Hotel should be saved. The council rejected a suggestion to preserve the hotel’s “circa 1926 Streamline Moderne Fa¡ade.”
The approved demolition was a blow to the Save our Downtown group. Several members of Save our Downtown spoke against the demolition at the Nov. 17 meeting. That group has opposed the project on several grounds, and as a result, changes have been made to the design.