Mountain House residents share vision of downtown
by Denise Ellen Rizzo
Oct 25, 2013 | 4057 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mountain House downtown
Mountain House resident Tirzah Stenner talks to Jim Lamb, a member of the Mountain House Community Services District Board of Directors, during a workshop on a future downtown center. The workshop on Saturday, Oct. 19, at Questa School was run by Shea Homes, the developer overseeing the project. Denise Ellen Rizzo/Tracy Press
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MOUNTAIN HOUSE — Lots of greenery, a fountain and shops specializing in coffee, books and sandwiches are among the elements of a downtown center envisioned by residents during a weekend community workshop.

More than 300 people gathered at Questa School to participate in brainstorming sessions at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, led by developer Shea Homes.

Residents were urged to tell developers what they wanted in a downtown, according to consultant Geoffrey Le Plastrier.

“We’re going to ask you to dig really deep into your life experiences, your history, your vision to help create the very soul of your community — the town center,” said Le Plastrier, president of the Irvine consulting firm LDC. “You and us have a rare opportunity to create something special together. We want your ideas.”

LDC is working on the town center with development company, Shea Homes and California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which owns the 25-acre retail property where it will be built.

Officials said the project is moving forward now because CalPERS acquired the land two months ago from Trimark.

Sitting at tables of 10 people, residents formulated ideas for downtown businesses, both retail and restaurants, as well as identify amenities they desired.

Their first exercise was to write a postcard to a friend about a visit to the Mountain House town center — a snapshot of sights, sounds, smells and activities.

While sharing their stories, a number of residents wrote about listening to live music in the square and strolling along tree-lined streets as water splashed in a fountain. They mentioned shopping at businesses such as a bicycle shop and a bookstore before grabbing a cup of coffee and a sandwich at a locally owned eatery.

“I would like to have a theater,” said Wicklund Village resident Maria Linsangan. “That would be nice.”

Lori Johnson said she liked the idea of a fountain and a grassy area for families to sit and enjoy the day.

“To me, Mountain House is a place where new families can begin,” she said.

The highlight of the workshop was when leaders asked residents to write on easels about a possible downtown identity and a list of shops and restaurants they desired.

A group at one table wrote that the center should be tailored to families, while others suggested a space that “feels like home,” “beautiful and health focused” and “nature inspired.”

Many groups said they favored a pedestrian-only downtown with nearby parking lots.

Residents generally preferred mom-and-pop stores and restaurants, with no chains or big-box stores.

Among their desires were a pet boutique, a grocery store, a bakery, a pizzeria, a post office, salons, an ice cream shop and fitness or community centers.

Jim Lamb, a Wicklund resident and member of the Mountain House Community Services District board, said his table wanted a destination downtown where residents could gather and socialize.

“It’s going to be a fun place where kids go and find things to do,” he said. “We’re pushing towards the social aspects of the downtown.”

Ron Davis, a resident of Bethany Village, said he enjoyed the commonality that residents shared for the center’s vision.

“I think the concept of a family-friendly, community-oriented downtown — I liked it a lot,” he said.

Le Plastrier said his firm will use the residents’ suggestions to create two or three conceptual plans that will be unveiled during a community meeting Nov. 16.

Community members can share their reactions to the plans, and a final proposal will be revealed sometime in January.

After the event, residents seemed pleased by the way the workshop was structured.

“They took our ideas into consideration,” said Toni Pridgeon, a Wicklund Village resident with resident Johnnetta Macon. “It makes you feel like you’re part of the community, part of the future.”

• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or drizzo@tracypress.com.

 
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