Walking mall proposed for Point Reyes

06/21/2012

Downtown Point Reyes Station has remained relatively unaltered for the last 50 years, consisting of little more than a couple dozen buildings lining State Route 1. But if one woman had her way, the town would soon hardly resemble its historic self, but assume the image of a Tuscan commune – with a walking mall, central plaza and a permanent farmers’ market and crafts fair.

Such was the proposal made last Thursday at the regular meeting of the Point Reyes Village Association. At the evening’s end, Kore D’ Abravanel, who until recently worked in architectural and interior design in Santa Barbara, proposed a master plan that would include diverting traffic from Main Street, moving Cheda’s garage to the current location of the Green Barn, and adding senior housing on B Street, across from the Dance Palace.

At the center of the proposed town square, Ms. D’Abravanel envisions a fountain and fire pit and a stage for musical events; adjacent areas would accommodate tables for farmers, craft markets and dining. Mesa Road and B Street, where visitors would access parking, would be fashioned with gardens.

She is inspired by Pienza, a rebuilt Renaissance town and UNESCO World Heritage Site in Tuscany.

“I think it’s time because we’re being overrun by tourists, especially on the weekend,” Ms. D’Abravanel, said. Considering the congestion that would be pushed to B Street and Mesa Road, and the loss of storefront view for Main Street businesses, most PRSVA members were less than thrilled. “You’re talking about privately owned properties... people have a mind of their own about their properties,” one woman noted at Thursday’s meeting.

In the absence of research into how such a shift would affect them, business owners appear to fall on both ends of the spectrum. “[There are] so many possibilities of how that might affect Point Reyes. People are going to be driving around the town and might not be able to see a lot of the shops available... My parking lot would be closed,” Dennis Langer, manager of Palace Market, said.  “I guess you’d have to do a study and realize the positives and negatives.”

Some, like Bridget Devlin of Bovine Bakery, see some positive aspects in the plan. “Initially I love the idea. Main Street’s too crazy on the weekends. You put your life in your own hands walking around there,” she said. “I don’t think it would affect my business; it might actually help it.” Among the apparent supporters of Ms. D’Abravanel’s vision are younger locals, some of whom showed up at the meeting to voice their opinions about it.

“I like that we as a town might be able to set an example,” Jordan Atanat, a young and relatively new resident, said. “We should be able to enjoy our own center, even if it sounds kind of daunting, it’s a worthwhile experiment. Every young person that lives out here that I’ve talked to dreams of an idea like this.”

According to an analysis by California State University, Chico, 73 percent of purchases in Point Reyes Station are made by tourists. It is difficult to say whether a pedestrian mall would promote that economy, driving more visitors to the area, or deter it for lack of access. “Various people would never even show up and see my work if they couldn’t see it from their car and park out in front of it,” Marty Knapp, who owns a photo gallery on Main Street, said. Mr. Knapp also questions what a permanent pedestrian walkway would bring with it. “Would there be people playing bongos in the middle of the road and having trapeze acts?”