Fun, inviting and interesting were the three words used most to describe the Railroad Street design unveiled to the public on Oct. 24 at Studios on the Park in Paso Robles.
The City of Paso Robles held the 2-hour gathering to gauge the public’s interest in the “funky railroad/industrial themed brewery and arts district” concept.
“We’re looking for property owners, the public, [and] the businesses to give us some feedback in terms of whether they like the idea, or maybe they don’t like the idea,” said Warren Frace, Community Development Director for Paso Robles. “But we want to find out if we’re on the right track with what we’re thinking in terms of options for improving that little street.”
Inside of Studios on the Park, visitors were met with the drafts of the Railroad District Corridor — streetscape, brand gateway, concept master plan, streetscape section and enlargement, alleyway connection and crossing, and public realm elements. City staff was asking visitors to fill out a paper survey and also directing people to the survey online.
The City of Paso Robles spent approximately $10,000 with the Wallace Group to come up with “a creatively-designed historic district.”
The idea to initially focus on the section of Railroad Street between 10th and 12th streets was born out of a task force consisting of the City of Paso Robles and the Downtown Paso Robles Main Street Association, Frace explained.
“We were looking for ideas and came up with the doing something creative on Railroad,” Frace said.
Railroad Street is the first street east of the Downtown square and runs parallel to Pine Street. The street is used as a rear entrance or service entrance for notable Pine Street landmarks such as Studios on the Park and Park Cinemas. The east side of Railroad includes business such as Car Quest, Lush Limousine, and Paso Robles Heating and Air.
The cosmetic ideas for the Railroad District Corridor include a steel truss gateway sign that would span Railroad Street at 12th Street; the use of “unearthed’ railroad artifacts; historically themed murals; outdoor public art displays; zig-zagging catenary night lighting the length of the district; railroad era downlights; cast iron tree grates; vegetated fence covering; and restaurant outdoor dining opportunities.
The goal is to make the area more inviting to tourists and locals alike without losing any valuable on-street parking.
Laure Carlisle owner of Laure Carlisle Art Studio and Gallery at 1030 Railroad St. was in favor of the district.
“I think it’s a wonderful plan,” Carlisle said. “I think a lot of people think its (Railroad Street) is just an alley.”
About 200 people attended the open house at Studios on the Park. Nearly 90 people took part in the online survey with a large majority of the responders noting the brewery and arts district was a “Great idea” or an “Okay idea.”
When asked about converting old buildings into breweries, distilleries, and galleries along Railroad Street, 59 of 65 responders online said it was a “Great idea” or an “Okay idea.
“Districts like this add to the overall character, interest, and charm to an already vibrant downtown. It is time the City looks outside of the surrounding City Park block and expand this energy and vibrancy as the downtown envelope gets bigger. Yeah!” stated someone online.
While most of the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, some people did question the concept.
“Wine and beer aren’t good enough anymore. We don’t want to be one-trick-pony of places to drink and that’s it. Art focus? Retail focus? How does any of this attract head of household jobs?” stated someone online.
Funding, according to Frace, would most likely be from several sources, such as grants for one. He added that it’s something that could be done in stages and could be extended farther down Railroad Street to the north. But before they can do that they needed to first see if this was something residents were behind and then bring it to the city planning commission and City Council early in 2019.
Two beer-related projects are already on tap for Railroad Street, but for now are outside of the initial concept. Plans for both projects — the Backyard beer garden and the California Coast Brewery — were also on display at the open house.
The beer garden, located on the southeast corner of the property at Railroad and 13th Streets, is further along in the process, having received approval from the city’s planning commission earlier this year. Chubby Chandler’s Pizza remains in play on the property but will undergo renovations.
A short walk north up Railroad Street plans for California Coast Brewery and a tasting room in the space that is currently home to Tozzi’s Auto has been proposed.
For more information on the Railroad District concept, survey or any proposed projects, visit the city’s website at www.prcity.com.