Train station plans go out to bid … again

Train station plans go out to bid … again
An RFP released earlier this year to develop this 1.2-acre lot on the corner of Lomas Santa Fe Drive and Cedros Avenue garnered only one proposal, which was returned. A new RFP will be released in December for an expanded project that adds part of the transit parking lot. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

SOLANA BEACH — At first they didn’t succeed so the city and North County Transit District are trying again to develop the train station property but this time with an expanded plan.

Council members unanimously agreed at the Nov. 19 meeting to reissue a request for proposals to convert the vacant lot on the corner of North Cedros Avenue and Lomas Santa Fe Drive, the existing train station and about one-third of the surface parking into offices, a restaurant and an underground parking structure.

An RFP was issued earlier this year to develop just the vacant 1.2-acre corner lot and the train station. Of the two proposals submitted, only one was received by the May deadline so both were returned unopened because NCTD determined one proposal “was not sufficient to determine the best use of the site.”

Since then city and NCTD staff and council liaisons Mike Nichols and Lesa Heebner have determined the lack of interest was partly due to the project site being too small and constrained to build an adequate and financially viable development.

A requirement to build and pay for 75 underground transit parking spaces and an underground structure to support the development also created funding challenges.

Under the terms of the new RFP the project will be phased and will include the same sites as the first one plus part of the existing parking area north of the station. The remaining lot will continue to be used for transit parking.

The development criteria includes preserving the existing station, which would be “repurposed,” rather than demolished, for use as a restaurant, retail space or transit-oriented shop. Train services such as ticket sales will be relocated to the track level.

In phase one, which will now comprise about 2.6 acres, NCTD will fund part of an underground parking facility with 300 spaces that can be used by the public as well as transit users. There has been discussion about the city helping to pay for some of the parking that could also be used by employees from nearby businesses.

“We had a series of workshops with the various businesses on Highway 101 and Cedros and the primary issue that came out of that was a lack of parking” for customers and employees, City Manager David Ott said.

“So we felt that this might be just a great opportunity maybe to address some of (those) issues,” he added. “It’s probably our best chance to do that because of the project that would be going in. Obviously there would be a lot of savings in cost. It’s obviously going to be one big hole and we can all work on it together.”

The city has been discussing projects for the entire site for more than two decades. A controversial $72 million development in the works for seven years ended in late 2008 after council members determined the mixed-use project wasn’t compatible with the city’s general plan.

A redesigned project was requested but never submitted. Since then a new management team has taken over at NCTD.

“This has been a great work in process,” NCTD Executive Director Matt Tucker said. “Understanding the history of the project really teaches the importance of us working together to achieve a project outcome that meets the vision of the city as well as our transportation needs.

“I think we’ve done that in the course of this RFP process,” Tucker added. “We’ve incorporated the design standards that help the city maintain the integrity of the environment that has already been created. We think there’s a win-win opportunity in terms of leveraging parking for both NCTD and the (city).”

“There’s a lot of good reasons to support this,” resident Gary Martin said. “We’re in for a lot of good parking at a really reasonable price. … The RFP focuses a lot on protecting community character … which is what we all spent so much time arguing about so many years ago.”

The overall plan for the approximately 6.9 acre-lot includes residential as well as commercial uses that would be built on top of the parking structure as well as on the corner lot.

If all goes as planned the RFP will be released Dec. 1, with a submittal deadline of Feb. 27. The NCTD board of directors could approve an agreement at the Oct. 15 meeting.

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