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VALLEY AND VENTURA COUNTY | VENTURA COUNTY REVIEW

Mission of Ventura Developer Is Renovation of Downtown

November 10, 1998|LEO SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Jim Mesa has a vision for downtown Ventura.

"It's an emotional thing for me," said Mesa, owner of Island View Construction. "I see the potential of the area, the closeness to the ocean, the older-style buildings. Redeveloping the buildings is a great way to utilize something that's already here but is not being used at its utmost."

Mesa had a hand in the renovation of the historic 71 Palm restaurant building and the Peirano building that now houses Jonathan's Mediterranean restaurant. The Ventura developer's latest project is the 127-year-old Spear Building and Hall, a combined 13,000-square-foot area anchored by the boarded-up Rendezvous Room at Main and Palm streets.

Mesa and business partner George Carroll have purchased the property with plans to renovate the brick structures, creating a mission-style facade. The redesign will include a restaurant in the Rendezvous Room corner, a courtyard and trellises.

"When you compare the downtown to other cities--and I compare it more to Santa Monica than Santa Barbara--I see it as an eclectic mix, some funky, some nice," Mesa said. "I think a little bit more quality could go into the area and mix it with the charm. That's the vision I have."

Construction on the project is expected to begin in January, Mesa said, with exterior work to be completed by March.

"In a couple of years, I see significant changes in the area," Mesa said. "I can speak of two projects of my own and two more that will happen. There's definitely a change going to happen in types of users, higher-end shops, restaurants."

Bret Richmond, an agent with Capital Commercial / NAI, which represented Island View Construction in the $1.1-million purchase, said the Spear project helps to incorporate renovation into the entire downtown area.

"You've had the new theater and a couple of rehab buildings up on Chestnut [Street], the Peirano building near the mission and recently on the corner of Oak [Street] and Main, there is a rehab building, but nothing on this corner," Richmond said.

Although the Century Theater complex is a big draw now, Richmond said, it will take redevelopment projects like the Spear Building to sustain the long-term vibrancy of Ventura's downtown area.

"Each building is beginning to get a new look," he said.

"If you look at the Third Street Promenade [in Santa Monica] or Old Town Pasadena, it took years to develop," he said. "As far as a downtown for Ventura, it's going to take some time. I've talked to some national retailers who say they're going to wait for the theater to be in operation for a year before they go downtown. Right now, the market isn't there, it hasn't been created yet, it doesn't have a history yet. But once it has a history, I think things will start to kick off."

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