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South Village begins to take shape with plans for final phase

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

The first project proposed under the city’s ambitious Village South Specific Plan is coming into clearer focus with the official unveiling of the final phase of the development called South Village.

The third phase consists of three structures with 124 for-sale housing units built over subterranean parking. It occupies 3.58 acres in the southern third of the Village South Specific Plan area, including portions of the former Richard Hibbard Chevrolet dealership and a flag lot that belongs to the City of Claremont.

The most publicly visible addition to the plan will be “Block F1,” a 130,000-square-foot residential building, which will be located at the southwest corner of Indian Hill Boulevard and the proposed extension of Green Street. It will include 87 units comprised of 24 one-bedroom, flat-style condominiums, in addition to 51 two-bedroom flats and 12 two-bedroom townhomes. The building’s floor plan includes two central and several smaller courtyards which will be for residents only.

“The building varies from two to four stories in height with roughly 70% of the Indian Hill frontage limited to two stories. The four-story portion is generally limited to the building’s western half, away from Indian Hill Boulevard,” according to a staff report

Behind and south of that building will be “Block F2,” a 60,000-square-foot residential structure with 16 two-bedroom flats, 12 three-bedroom flats, and five two-bedroom townhomes. Similar to F1, this building will range from two to four stories with the more massive four story section situated at the north, adjacent to similarly sized structures proposed in an earlier phase. The two-story portion will be located toward the south next to “existing small-scale development.”

Both buildings on block F will be constructed over a shared two-level subterranean parking structure providing 216 spaces.

The plan also includes a quarter-acre park near its center, immediately south of the extension of Watson Drive, and adjacent to all three proposed buildings. “This space is intended as a heavily landscaped green space with open turf area in the center for passive recreation,” according to the staff report.

The third structure will be a 11,000-square-foot building at the southeast corner of Bucknell Avenue and Watson Drive which will include four, three-story townhomes, each with two-car garages and additional living quarters on the ground floor, which could be used as work spaces.

The buildings are rendered in a Spanish style with tile roofs, arched entryways, courtyards and balconies. The developer, Village Partners Ventures, selected architectural firm Moule & Polyzoides for this phase, and partner Stefanos Polyzoides gave a presentation last Wednesday when the plans were submitted for review by the Claremont Architectural Commission. Polyzoides is considered the godfather of new urbanism, a school of thought that focuses on revitalization of urban areas, including walkable neighborhoods found in transit oriented designs. For three decades, Polyzoides has been the architect at Scripps College, which is known for its Spanish architecture.

Wednesday’s meeting was just a preliminary review, so the plans were not up for a formal approval. In addition, two key commissioners were absent, so there was talk about having an additional look before sending the plans back to the developer. Principal Planner Chris Veirs suggested that the commission could still make suggestions regarding the designs, “So that as we move along with our review, we can take your comments and refine the plans accordingly.”

Overall, the commission liked what they saw but expressed caution about the building elevations that were presented in monochrome tones, while previous plans were shown in full color.

“I do like the design overall, I think it looks like Claremont,” commissioner Lisa Castillo said. However, she also commented that the structures don’t appear to have enough variation and asked whether “everything is going to be white going down Indian Hill?”

Commissioner Frank Perri agreed “I generally like it, it’s just hard to articulate what you are seeing being monochromatic.”

There was concern about a lack of variation in the façades, a problem that several commissioners felt could be addressed by simply adding colors to set one segment of the building apart from its neighbor. However, the plans were described as being preliminary and focused more on showing the overall massing, while final architectural details, including adding a palette of colors, will be worked out later.

Earlier phases required retail storefronts on the ground level, specifically near the transition from the existing Village to the southern expansion. Because the third phase is the furthest away from the Village, no retail space will be required, but flexibility will be built into the design so that in the future, storefronts could be possible in those areas, particularly on Watson and Green and along the 200 feet of Indian Hill south of Green.

“All this ties back to a multiyear effort by staff to develop a specific plan to try and create an expansion of the Village,” Veirs said.

Adopted in July 2021, the Village South Specific Plan created a special zoning overlay in the area west of Indian Hill, south of the railroad tracks, north of Arrow Highway and east of Bucknell. The plan focuses on building transit oriented developments, which include greater density and larger buildings than ever before built in Claremont.

The plan has its detractors, who find it too massive and feel it does not fit with the quaint Claremont Village. They worry that all the new residents and customers for the added retail business will clog adjacent streets and turn our city into just another urban center. There is also doubt that the developer is planning enough parking for all the new people.

This is the start of a very long process, including a subdivision map; the Village South Specific Plan master development permit; parking plan and parking reduction requests; review of public infrastructure and utilities; final design approval; and public art conditional use permit. All of these will have to go through the various commissions and ultimately face the city council.

In addition to ample commercial space, the first two phases of South Village include 610 rental units, the first large-scale, market-rate apartment buildings constructed in Claremont in decades. However, a condominium building currently under construction at Colby Circle has been converted from for-sale to rental units.

The 103 “flats,” or units on a single floor, included in phase three allow an owner to drive into a parking garage and take an elevator up to the unit without having to climb numerous stairs.

This type of housing has been on the wish list of local real estate professionals, as well as the public, for years. The aim is to capture two types of homebuyers, those who are not in a position to buy a single-family detached residence, and “empty nesters” seeking to transition from a large home with a large yard into a more conveniently located condo they can “lock and leave” when vacationing.

“We feel that is something that is needed to diversify our housing stock here in Claremont,” Veirs said.

With the release of the final phase, many residents were hoping to see a rendering of the entire South Village development. Veirs said that with much of the plan still in flux, that was not feasible at this time, and the city is several months away from completion of a 3D model that will put the entire development into scale.

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