Trader Joe’s developer plans new destination for downtown Monterey.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Doug Wiele’s eyes light up as he describes his vision for the building that will rise from the ashes of a 2007 fire that gutted an Alvarado Street business hub and snarled traffic in downtown Monterey for months.
“There will be an open market on the ground level, like the Ferry Building in San Francisco,” Wiele says, using his finger to circle the space on his blueprints. “We’ll have a built-in kitchen, but we’ll also have spaces for fresh produce, protein, dairy and wine vendors.”
That’s in addition to two restaurants—one on Alvarado, the other on the building’s Tyler Street side—and three stories of high-end apartments above.
“The housing element is what drives this whole thing,” Wiele says. “People want to live close to downtown activity, and people around here can afford to. There isn’t anything else like that here.”
Wiele, his investors and construction lenders are banking—to the tune of $15 million—on the 13,525-square-foot “Monterey Market Hall” they believe will revitalize what Wiele calls a “dysfunctional downtown with self-inflicted wounds.” Wiele’s plan has strings attached, including turning the downtown core’s numerous one-way streets into two-ways and restoring two-hour parking to all downtown spaces.
“One-way streets don’t attract retail,” Wiele says.
Before hatching the Market Hall plan, he consulted with a national retailers including Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters. He says they balked at the downtown traffic design and one-hour street parking, which they viewed as ill-suited to leisurely shopping.
Though Wiele is based in Southern California, he has a track record of success in Monterey. In 2005, he brokered a deal that brought Trader Joe’s into the former Safeway site on Munras Avenue. The specialty grocer does a cool $31 million in annual sales at the Munras location, and Wiele hopes a good chunk of its customer base will amble down the street to the Market Hall, which will be visible from the TJ’s parking lot.
His local partner in crime is Kirk Probasco of Carmel-based Mid-Coast Investments, a veteran of the Central Coast restaurant scene. Probasco ran Rio Grill in Carmel in the ’90s and oversaw operations at Stokes Restaurant in Monterey until it closed in 2009.
“I’m very excited about this,” Probasco says. “Monterey Market Hall will provide a convenient opportunity for our community to gather with family and friends.”
Monterey City Manager Fred Meurer is also confident that Wiele’s plan will be well-received.
“Downtown property owners and merchants have been holding their breath for good news on reconstruction,” Meurer says. “This project should give downtown a real shot in the arm.”
Wiele met May 26 with Jerry Anderson, a member of Monterey Mayor Chuck Della Sala’s Ad Hoc Committee on Downtown Planning and the manager of Old Capitol Land Co., which owns the Alvarado property slated for the Market Hall. A memorandum of understanding was scheduled to be signed last week.
Wiele says he doesn’t intend to file a formal application with the city until August; once that’s done, he’ll work with city officials to facilitate a nine-month public hearing process so residents can weigh in on the plan. If everything stays on schedule, Wiele thinks the Market Hall can break ground by late 2012 and open to the public in early 2014.
“The community’s gonna have a lot of fun with this,” Wiele says.