First building under Ventura’s downtown code

New Urban News
Issue: Jul-Aug 2010
Issue Date: Thu, 2010-07-15
Page Number: 11
Volume: 15.5

Downtown Ventura, California, has its first new Class A office building since the 1920s, and it’s a beauty. Dan Frederickson, a former top executive of Kinko’s, erected a four-story office and retail structure at 60 California St. — the first building produced under Ventura’s form-based downtown code.

With a white stuccoed exterior and deep-set windows, Frederickson’s 20,000 sq. ft. creation has the solid look of buildings from a century ago. City Manager Rick Cole points out that the new code allowed the building to be constructed with no on-site parking. The architect was DesignARC of Santa Barbara.

With the city’s cooperation, Frederickson is leasing 54 parking spaces (at $32,000 a space over 25 years) in an adjoining garage that he says had been underused. A pedestrian bridge connects the garage to the new building’s second floor. At night a sophisticated LED system illuminates the building’s spire.

Though the building is a significant step forward for Ventura, Frederickson expresses frustration that it took years to obtain the required government approvals and, partly as a consequence, the building “cost $2,000,000 more than it should have.” The slow pace, which he blames partly on inadequate administration by city staff, resulted in its being finished at a time when the depressed economy made it impossible to fill its spaces.

Five years for prototype approval
Cole says design complications required time to resolve, and since Ventura had so little recent experience with downtown projects of this kind, creativity was needed “to shoehorn a multiple-story building where a one-story building had been.” There were “almost five years from concept to final permitting sign-off — not bad for a coastal California infill project at the time,” Cole asserts, adding that “with our form-based code in place, today we would very likely do it in under a year.”

Patrick Siegman of Nelson\Nygaard consultants, an adviser on Ventura’s planning, says the lease allows the parking spaces to be used exclusively by Frederickson’s tenants during regular business hours but to be used by patrons of nearby movie theaters and restaurants in the evening. “This,” Siegman notes, “is the beginning of a transformation of downtown Ventura from free parking everywhere to a much more market-oriented system of parking, where parking is bought and sold and rented and leased like any normal commodity.”

In downtown Ventura’s cultural district, a $59 million mixed-use project known as Working Artists Ventura (WAV) opened this spring, containing an unusually wide range of housing units. The four-story, 130,000 sq. ft. building contains 54 high-ceilinged, affordable units for artists with families; 15 units of “supportive housing” for homeless people and young people who have become too old for foster care; and 13 condos that are being offered at $625,000 to $875,000 each. The market-rate condos, which have rooftop perches with ocean views, help to subsidize the affordable housing.

A LEED-certified project by Santos Prescott and Associates and Carde Ten Architects, WAV also includes 6,100 sq. ft. on the ground floor for “arts-friendly businesses” such as cafes, galleries, and jazz clubs. Project sponsor is the nonprofit organization PLACE in partnership with the John Stewart Company.