Loma Vista urban village finally underway

A main street illustrative concept of Loma Vista, the first of three Urban Centers under development to keep up with the rapid growth in the Fresno/Clovis metropolitan area. The concept focuses on growth in a manner that builds upon and integrates with the existing community of Clovis. (City of Clovis)

It takes at least 10 years to see the plan you set in motion finally come to fruition. That is what an old boss of Clovis Planning Director Dwight Kroll once told him and Kroll says that certainly rings true of the city’s plan for Loma Vista.

While residential development in the eastside Clovis community-within-a-community has been booming, finally eclipsing the 60 percent threshold set by the county that allows Clovis to break ground on its second community, Heritage Grove, the plan for Loma Vista’s commercial center—the urban village—has yet to take root.

Now, after years of waiting, the Clovis city council approved the first commercial tenant for Loma Vista—an AM/PM, complete with a gas station and drive-thru restaurant.

While the first tenant being a gas station and convenience store seems anticlimactic for such a highly anticipated center, city staff and the AM/PM developer explained the difficulty of being first.

A representative with Westgate Construction and Development explained that traffic is needed in the area to attract a grocery store tenant, as well as a Starbucks, which is hoped to fill an adjacent space allowing for a drive-thru.

“We’ve met with Safeway and other potential grocery store partners and the concern is the area is so green they just want something started before making their final decision; they don’t want to be the pioneer,” the representative explained to council members. “My family and I have been in the gas station development business for over 25 years, and a typical AM/PM has 3,000 visits a day so when we started presenting that to these grocery stores and to Starbucks, they get excited. They say, ‘OK you are going to bring the traffic and we’ll do the rest.’”

While council members were hesitant, they ultimately voted to adopt the changes to the plan needed to accommodate the AM/PM—specifically allowing for drive-thru uses along that corner, where they were prohibited in the original plan.

“I think our community has this love-hate relationship with convenience stores,” councilmember Lynne Ashbeck said. “You put them in centers that aren’t doing well and they do kind of perk up and then we put them in centers that are really busy, which I think is silly, and they still do all right, so I think we just can’t quite figure out what to do with them, but it makes sense that you have to start somewhere.”

Mayor Bob Whalen, who was skeptical of allowing for drive-thru uses, also commented that his concerns were mitigated by Westgate’s explanation and he is excited about the prospect of a Starbucks coming alongside the AM/PM to create a gathering space for the residents of Loma Vista.

“A coffee shop is something that is a gathering space for a lot of folks regardless of whether it is a Starbucks or another place with or without a drive-thru, and I think the community would be interested in going there to gather,” Whalen said. “My daughter goes there to meet with her study group, so I can see that use being consistent with the plan for this center. I know if we approve this, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee the Starbucks, but I appreciate hearing that that is the direction we’re hoping for.”

In addition to making an amendment to the plan to allow for drive-thru use on this particular site, the council also approved an updated map of the urban village with a new trajectory for pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

This map shows Loma Vista’s specific master plan. When completed, Loma Vista will accommodate a wide range of housing, social, entertainment, recreational, cultural and shopping opportunities, through exceptional community centers, designed to enhance the pedestrian experience. In addition, residents of Loma Vista will relish walkable paths through high quality artisan and “craftsman” era neighborhoods, inviting exploration into cafes, outdoor dining, and retail facilities located within the three community centers. (City of Clovis)

Originally, Kroll said the concept for the village was to have diagonal pathways cut through the shopping center, intersecting in the middle, but while that concept looks good on a map, its execution is difficult as this shopping center on Shaw, between DeWolf and Leonard avenues, is intended to be the drive-to area for Loma Vista residents. So, while it is pedestrian and bicyclist friendly, Kroll said the diagonal plan would be difficult to construct businesses, as well as needed parking spots, in the triangular modules the diagonal plan would create.

Instead, Kroll said the new paseo will navigate pedestrians logically throughout the center and they will pass by storefronts, with inviting outdoor dining options and patios along the path.

“The northwest corner of this center was always designed to be the drive to commercial sites within Loma Vista. We tried to encourage pedestrian and bicyclist trails and facilities throughout Loma Vista to try and encourage active participation, but we realize there is a location you actually do need to drive your car to in order to load groceries or just get that quick cup of coffee on your way to work,” Kroll said. “This does have meeting point emphasis to it with the commercial environment it probably makes more sense to have a rectangular paseo pattern through there. Parking spaces are normally rectangular and in order to get parking spaces in there and get as much yield as we can with retail, we worked with the applicant and they have provided a linear type of paseo system and they have made it so the walkways actually run in front of businesses and there are patios to be enjoyed by residents.”

Councilmember Vong Mouanoutoua said he prefers the new pedestrian plan for the paseo through the urban village.

“I’ve been wondering when we were going to do something like this because we are not pedestrian friendly,” Mouanoutoua said. “For example, the new Wal-Mart shopping center only has that pedestrian zone in the center, but if you come in at the corner, now you have to navigate with your kids in the stroller through the parking lot and we’re navigating cars. That is why I really like this updated plan. This is the smart way to build as we move forward because just the straight or diagonal won’t get me to the places I want to go.”

Aside from approving a new paseo system and the first commercial tenant for Loma Vista, the council also approved a new concept map highlighting the green space at the center of the urban village and the planned Loma Vista Fire Station.

Kroll said the Fire Station will be similar to the one in Old Town Clovis, in that its design will set the architectural stage for the area. The station, as well as another public use building—possibly a library or senior center annex or a daycare facility—will serve as the backdrop of the park space, which will feature performing arts stage. The park itself, Kroll explained, will be more of a celebratory space than a typical open space area used for sports and recreational activities. Instead, it will be an area where residents or organizations can rent space for activities.

In the original plan, a radius street structure was designed to highlight the area that would be home to the two civic buildings at the base of the park and entertainment venue, however, with one of the civic uses being a fire station, Kroll said the plan had to be tweaked to make the station more accessible, as its primary function will of course be fire safety and the trucks would need plenty of room and access to a main street. To accommodate this, the new plan still makes the area a focal point of interest, similar to Centennial Plaza or the entrance to the Clovis Cole Hotel in Old Town Clovis.

The new design remains eye-catching, but is more functional, Kroll said.

“Our radius pattern that we developed previously was a little bit problematic in terms of getting the entry traffic into the fire station and letting it exit onto a main street, which would be Loma Vista Parkway,” Kroll explained. “Getting back to the original plan, I always envisioned how you would be looking down the street envision and the impetus of doing the radius street was to try and keep the vision on a pedestrian scale so that when you look down a street, it’s not just one of our streets that goes on for 20 miles until it hits the Sierra, but that you could see storefronts and things that draw you in, prompting you to explore the next thing beyond that corner.

“We looked at the design and found we could still create that type of environment by pulling the streets in a little bit and with the elongation of the street that runs along the east side of the park. Then we can do something like we did with Centennial Plaza.”

As for the Loma Vista plaza as a whole, Kroll said it would mirror downtown Pasadena in feel and feature mission revival style architecture that compliments the colonial style of the residential homes in Loma Vista as both styles are from the same era. Surrounding the park would be pedestrian centric shops and dining spots, making the urban village the gathering place it is intended to be for residents and visitors to the area.

Already, Kroll said the city is planning to extend its transit system to the Loma Vista urban village, with Loma Vista being the last eastern stop along the Shaw Avenue route that starts near Fresno State. For this reason, Kroll said city staff is looking into making the second civic building that will match the fire station in design a daycare center, where Loma Vista residents can drop off their kids before hopping on a bus to work or to school.

All and all, Kroll said he is excited to see Loma Vista finally take shape.

“There are always some adjustments to be made as we break ground on the urban village,” he said. “But after 10 years, I’m excited to see it finally take off.”