Monterey Waterfront Recommendation: Restaurant in Old Train Depot
October 1, 2012
After a spirited debate over city government's tendency to dawdle on long-term plans, the city of Monterey's Waterfront Master Plan Subcommittee agreed Wednesday night to recommend two restaurant proposals for the old train depot on Del Monte Avenue near the base of Wharf 2.
The subcommittee's recommendation to City Council is to negotiate with Trailside Cafe proprietor Sean Allen, who wants to relocate his Cannery Row restaurant, and Bernardus pastry chef Ben Spungin and his brother, Jay, who propose a cafe and creamery in the 1915 building.
The 5-1 vote constitutes a recommendation to City Council, not a binding agreement. But Planning Commissioner and subcommittee member Leon Garden pushed for at least a 60-day delay to wait for the city to complete repairs to the building, which he and Architectural Review Committee chair and City Council candidate Mike Dawson argued might help get higher rental bids.
Based on an Aug. 24 appraisal, the "highest and best" use of the property is retail, which would supply the city with the highest rent.
Garden's motion to delay a vote was defeated 3-3, after Planning Commissioner and council candidate Bill McCrone spoke out against it and criticized the city for "paralysis" and "dealing at arm's length with commercial enterprises."
The subcommittee selected the two restaurant pitches over Robbie Torrise’s Ocean Fresh Fish market, an extension of his wholesale fish business on the wharf; a produce market concept by Tanimura & Antle CEO Rick Antle; and a proposal from First Night Monterey, an arts nonprofit famous for throwing a family-friendly New Years Eve party, to create a community arts center.
First Night Executive Director Ellen Martin, pictured above at the train depot, criticized the subcommittee members for failing to take into account public good, instead focusing solely on revenue as the primary driver of their decision. "I'm really sorry for the people of Monterey," she said.
Car auctioneers Russo and Steele also submitted a late proposal to create an auction site and car museum on the site.