Murrieta creating $100,000 fund for new downtown restaurants

City wants to help restaurateurs cover water and sewer connection costs that can range between $30,000 to $100,000.

Murrieta is creating a revolving fund to help restaurateurs cover water and sewer connection costs, which can range between $30,000 to $100,000 depending on the size of the establishment.

The City Council will consider forming the $100,000 fund — a novel financing mechanism that could be replicated in other area cities — at Tuesday night’s regular meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m.

“This is pretty unique,” said Jeff Murphy, the city’s development services director.

Property owners or restaurateurs that take advantage of the new program will be required to open their establishments within 12 months from the date of the city’s first installment payment of the connection fees and the entire loan must be paid off in two years, starting from the date the restaurant opens for business.

The loans will be secured by a lien on the property/and or leasehold interest, a lien on business assets and appropriate guidelines.

Money to seed the fund will be pulled from the $1,000,000 the city earmarked for the Murrieta Marketplace project, money that was going to offset a portion of the $5 million in street improvement costs associated with the French Valley shopping center.

That project is still moving forward but the agreement that led to the creation of that specific capital improvement program (No. 8425 – Regency Development) expired last year.

“However, the funds are remaining set aside to allow for the opportunity to negotiate a potential future user. As a result, the $100,000 loan does not have any impact on any current project or agreement,” according to Murphy’s staff report for the council.

The developers of the shopping center are working on a new development agreement that could be considered by the Planning Commission and council in July.

“We are very excited about this effort,” Murphy said Monday. “This program, in conjunction with other initiatives currently under development, will help transform Downtown Murrieta into a unique destination location for boutique retail establishments, restaurants and offices.”

One of the projects that could qualify for the new connection fee program, Murphy said, is the Wiens restaurant that is going into the old Plowboys building.

The city has long sought to enliven the downtown region — more Temecula or Gaslamp San Diego, less Mayberry — but some residents love it as it is, a quaint throwback that gives the city of 100,000-plus a genuine small town feel.

This dynamic has led to some clashes in the last few years as the city approved plans for businesses such as an outdoor restaurant and a microbrewery that will bring more traffic to formerly sleepy streets.

City officials have justified the changes to the plan for the downtown — which included scrapping the ‘historic’ part of its name — by pointing to the revenue the area could generate for the city’s general fund. And there are plenty of residents who have been pining for more shops and restaurants, such as DownTown PUBlic, that give them a reason to stay local instead of driving down to Old Town Temecula.

  1. Great idea! It’s super expensive to open a restaurant and these types of programs show the city is serious about attracting new businesses and is focused on developing zones which create density and foster new connections.

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  2. Over recent decades, the monetary and manpower efforts of the City of Murrieta to breathe economic life into Murrieta’s Old Town have been impressive. It is a noble task indeed to try to revive the past of a once-flourishing business district, which Murrieta’s Old Town certainly was back in the days before the I-15 went through. (Hard to imagine, but that was only in the recent 80’s). But, when the freeway ribbon cutting was over, it was only the freeway-near sections of the old 395 (the once famous and thriving old “inland route” to San Diego), such as Temecula’s Old Town, that would forever thereafter be positioned to enjoy the commercial bonanza that comes with the nearby proximity of major freeway on-and-offramps. (In contrast, Murrieta’s Old Town section of the 395 is far recessed from 15 access at one end by the Ivy stretch of the 395, from the point where the 395 takes its very long 90 degree jog away from the freeway; and at the other end, by the storage, government, office, mixed commercial, and etc. conglomeration of uses that run far along Los Alamos). It is as a natural result of the comparative good fortune of the new freeway’s proximity that Old Town Temecula evolved from being a historically quaint bunch of old buildings into a now nationally recognized culturally themed entertainment and dining destination. An economic bonanza for that city. And, this same proximity is the only reason location of the now-existing Promenade could ever have become anything more than a twinkle in an ultra-talented Temecula politician’s eye. But, back to Murrieta’s equally quaint Old Town: It reminds me (I’m old enough to remember) of what happened to Pomona’s once famous Buffums-anchored mall in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Planning for that once prestigious mall was well underway before the I-10 freeway made it’s way from LA to and beyond Montclair in the late 1950’s. Pomona city leaders did not foresee what the freeway would mean to local commerce, including the Buffums center which was inconveniently far from the freeway. Buffums was owned by a fabulously rich and famous member of the renowned Chandler family of Los Angeles. Before the freeway’s commercial force eventually took it down, Buffums and its center stores had been patronized, visited, or frequented by such luminaries as Elizabeth Taylor, Ronald Reagan, and Jackie Kennedy. And then came the freeway close Montclair Plaza: a commercial center concept which had not been courted by either Pomona or Claremont, either of whom could have had it. It was then mere years until the Buffums center began to suffer mightily. The Montclair Plaza, and everything for blocks around it, flourished. And then, the City of Pomona started trying everything under the sun to revive the Buffums center. All kinds of time and professional effort went into the ill-fated task. As a college student in the early 1970’s, I had a professor at Cal Poly Pomona who had been among those commissioned by the city to try to find ways to bring the Buffums center back to life. My prof at the time had concluded that a terribly expensive proposal – moving sidewalks through the whole mall – would save the day. And well, lets just say that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men in Pomona could not undo the misfortune of the freeway’s economic forces. The Buffums center became, mostly, a memory… still kinda nice… but giving way to mostly low-rent art shops, a smattering of eateries, coffee spots, and a nice – but not economically powerful – educational center that was not commercial-traffic sensitive. So, commercial traffic realities are just that. Realities. And still, Murrieta’s almost miraculously placed Triangle vicinity (not just the Triangle, but vast areas around it) remain largely undeveloped. The commercially amazing intersection of two major freeways. And yet, we concentrate on our own, metaphorical, Buffums. Just something to think about.

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  3. Correction: I made an error in my post, when I wrote, “In contrast, Murrieta’s Old Town section of the 395 is far recessed from 15 access at one end by the Ivy stretch of the 395, from the point where the 395 takes its very long 90 degree jog away from the freeway; and at the other end, by the storage, government, office, mixed commercial, and etc. conglomeration of uses that run far along Los Alamos.” Properly written, the street incorrectly referred to as “Los Alamos” would have been “Kalmia”… which runs through the very mixed, non-historically themed south-westerly side of the 15 freeway for a very long distance before arriving at Washington Avenue. The challenge of making either of these routes into thematically appropriate entry paths to Murrieta’s Old Town would be formidable, although the more realistically possible path to achieving Murrieta’s Old Town dream would be the actual old 395 route near the Triangle end of Murrieta, where the 395 along Jefferson intersects at Murrieta Hot Springs Road and then runs north-westerly toward Ivy, past the former site of the once-famous “Clip Joint” hair salon, and then on, passing the site of the old (now gone, but once-well known to travelers) site of the coffee shop/restaurant (the “Windmill”) and then on down Ivy and the Old Town district (this is the “real” old 395 route) and on to Washington. The Jefferson section of the 395 has obviously evolved into a major commercial traffic corridor; but what remains of Murrieta’s genuine Old Town actually starts north-westerly of the intersection of Jefferson and Ivy, and then runs along Ivy on down to Washington. It is also the route most directly accessed from the Triangle, which is in reality the (presently) barely-tapped future of Murrieta’s future commercial base. This is the natural route to Old Town, and like I’ve always said, trying to make the Kalmia end of this geographical configuration the entry route to Old Town is like trying to make water run uphill. It is commercially unnatural. And, Murrieta’s economic heart, and the center of it’s entire commercial traffic future, is the Triangle. This is a fact. Well worth remembering. And, as John Adams once said (and Ronald Reagan made famous by repeating), “Facts are stubborn things.”

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