Mon09012014

Construction set for both gateways – finally: Publisher’s Perspective

It’s happening. The Los Altos City Council Sept. 25 unanimously approved the Jeffrey A. Morris Group’s proposal for 400 Main St., considered a gateway entrance to downtown Los Altos off Foothill Expressway. A bit of history: The city purchased the site in 1997 from Pete Harmon, Los Altos Hills resident and owner of Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises.

This key entry to downtown has been put up for sale or lease by the city nearly every year since. We had at least two different offers to build a hotel and another for a movie theater, but none made the cut with the powers that be. It took a half-dozen revisions of architectural plans for a two-story office building and a possible restaurant by Morris, son of the famed Mervyns department store tycoon, to finally get it right. And hurrah, it’s a go.

Meanwhile, at the other end of Main at the intersection with Edith Avenue and San Antonio Road, the digging could start soon for the boutique hotel planned by Abigail Ahrens. This former Shell service station site has been vacant since the early 1980s, when Shell abandoned the convenient rows of pumps that served up gas at approximately a buck a gallon (remember those days?), cleaned up the soil contamination and put it on the market. It changed owners at least three times, with each new owner dreaming of an office/restaurant combination.

Finally, Ahrens, a local developer, purchased the center-stage lot. Her plans for a 18-room French-style hotel sailed rather quickly through city planning departments and the city council.

The new structure will be a welcome replacement for the drab gravel triangle that’s been staring at us for so long at what seems to be the most traversed intersection in town.

Small problem: Neither of the two projects provides a single spot for public parking. However, the city claims to have the problem covered, so let’s cheer for the two gateway improvements. Both will add charm to the most charming street on the Peninsula.

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