A plan to add second-story retail and office space at Ojai's Arcade shopping center is being abandoned, project developer Larry Wilde said Tuesday.
The Ojai City Council gave the go-ahead in January for Wilde to obtain permits to construct 4,305 square feet of second-story commercial space on the property at 250 and 254 E. Ojai Ave. above the American Heritage Gallery.
Wilde's proposal for the first two-story building in the historic Arcade structure also called for adding space on the first floor, expanding the current 3,445-square-foot building to a total of 8,750 square feet.
City approval came after a yearlong application process that included numerous public hearings. Increases in parking congestion downtown and obstruction of views of nearby mountains were among problems anticipated by those opposed to the project. Proponents said the project would vitalize the downtown shopping area and bring new tax revenue to the city.
Wilde, a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker Property Shoppe in Ojai, said he abandoned the project after learning that costs would be higher than he anticipated. He estimated that the project would cost about $1.2 million to complete, about $200,000 more than the break-even point in his budget, he said.
Ventura County records indicate that Wilde agreed to pay $575,000 for the property in August, 1990.
Wilde said he plans to return the property to former owner Hy Ogulnick, forfeiting 14 payments that he has made.
"I'd love to see someone else with deep pockets get into it," Wilde said. "I believe it will be a definite benefit to the Arcade."
Ogulnick said he was disappointed, "but I always thought from the word go that their project was a little ambitious. But what they had in mind would have been a great addition to the city. It was a grand design. Architecturally it was beautiful. It's the city's loss that these guys abandoned the project."
Approval for the Wilde project could be transferred to another party if building plans are submitted to the city by Jan. 16, said Marilyn Miller, assistant planner for the city of Ojai. A year extension of the deadline could also be granted, she said.
Ogulnick said he plans to put the property on the market as soon as he regains title. He has already gotten two very serious offers from parties with established businesses in the Ojai Valley, he said.
Ogulnick said he isn't sure whether the interested parties want to build a two-story structure on the property.
"I don't think their plans are quite as ambitious," he said.