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By Thomas J. Sullivan–
Plans to demolish a long-vacant former bank building on Sunrise Boulevard and replace it with a coffee drive-thru and retails shops received general support from residents during a neighborhood association meeting held at City Hall last week.
The developer had originally proposed turning the corner location, at Sunrise Boulevard and Sungarden Drive, into a 24-hour gas station and convenience store, but that proposal was dropped last year amid heated opposition from local residents.
During the Aug. 14 meeting of the Area 9 neighborhood association, Architect Daniel Goalwin presented a preliminary site plan drafted by his firm, Barghausen Consulting Engineers of Kent, WA. Plans show a new 7,900-square-foot retail building at the corner, with parking along the side and rear.
Goalwin confirmed Starbucks Coffee has expressed conditional interest in the project as an anchor tenant in the proposed plaza.
“Coffee smells much better than gasoline,” said Nancy Graham, Area 9 past president. “We fought the developer long and hard on the environmental impact his 18-bay service station project would have before he eventually gave up.”
Co-owner/developer Edgar Rizkalli of the Castro Valley-based Cal Ventures Group, LLC, attended the meeting but did not address attendees.
“I feel the proposal we are now offering is a good general fit for the neighborhood,” Rizkalli told The Sentinel following the meeting. He said he was pleased with the general feedback from the neighborhood and said he hopes the proposed project can move forward towards submission to the city’s planning division.
“It’s good to see a better idea being presented by Mr. Rizkalli to our association,” Graham said.
The site plan presented by the architect calls for a wrap-around Starbucks drive-thru lane behind the new retail plaza. The lane would be able to handle up to 13 vehicles which could be stacked up waiting to place beverage orders at any given time.
According to a preliminary project drawing presented to the association, a three-foot sound wall to reduce noise levels would wrap around the full drive-thru lane from its start in Copperwood Plaza to its end along Sunrise Boulevard.
Area 9 President Mike Nishimura said he had concerns about the general traffic safety impact the proposed project could have during peak commute hours before 10 a.m. and said a traffic study should be conducted and submitted to the Planning Commission.
“Vehicles could easily back up on Sungarden Drive waiting to enter Copperwood Plaza to get to the coffee drive-thru,” he said.
Participants asked whether the former bank building now located on the site could be preserved and re-purposed for use as a medical office, but Goalwin said the building is “not in sound condition, and would need to be demolished.” He also said the location isn’t zoned for medical use.
The project calls for the preservation of existing redwood trees surrounding and the creation of 34 parking spaces, including two which would be ADA compliant.
Goalwin said the proposed new building could be split for up to three individual retail tenants and said the developer is “marketing that aspect of the project to a number of future tenants.”
Former Area 9 director, Steve Wigginton, said he had written a letter to the city voicing his strong opposition to the former AM/PM Arco gasoline station project once proposed for the site.
“I’m much more comfortable with this project, but there are many unanswered traffic issues which still have to be addressed,” he said. “They need to be answered by the developer.”
“I don’t have a problem with another coffee shop, even though it would be competing with ours,” said Karen Pastor, co-owner of the nearby Pastor’s Auto Care. “The project needs a strong anchor tenant in order to sustain itself.”
Homeowner Joanna Knierimen, said she wasn’t sold on the project, saying “There are too many coffee shops including Starbucks, Dutch Bros and now The Human Bean.”
“It would be preferable to see something in this plaza which would be new and unusual,” she said, suggesting a Cracker Barrel or a Golden Corral buffet restaurant.
The developer declined to say when plans for the proposal would formally be submitted to the city.
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