By Jim Wynne & Arrow Santos
The El Camino Real off-ramp is one of our city’s major southbound entry points. Drivers exiting the freeway are currently greeted by shuttered buildings and abandoned land on all corners of the intersection of West Avenida Valencia and El Camino Real.
The southwest corner is an empty, fenced-off lot that hasn’t been used since functioning as a gas station in the 1990s. The former automotive service center Top Tune on the southeast corner has been vacant since 2013 and has been fenced up and slowly falling into disrepair since 2015.
And on the final corner to the northwest, Tommy’s Restaurant has sat shuttered since its abrupt closing at the end of 2019.
A red-carpet entrance to our beautiful city, this off-ramp intersection is not.
Soon, all three corners will have separate building projects underway simultaneously. All three projects adhere to the city’s specific Spanish Colonial Revival architecture requirements and will uphold the iconic San Clemente image we all know and love.
Unrelated, aside from the coincidental timing after the yearslong wait, these developments are slated to bring new business venues and living spaces to this current dead zone.
The Valencia Building will replace Top Tune at 1502 S. El Camino Real. This finished redevelopment will be an approximate 5,072 square-foot, two-story commercial building with a restaurant on the first floor and office space available to lease on the second floor.
The restaurant will feature an interior dining area of approximately 2,999 square feet and an outside patio of 750 square feet. Total seating will allow for about 92 patrons. Surface and underground parking will be available, with a drive-around access ramp for exiting through the back alley.
Twenty parking spots, plus bike racks, will be available on-site, along with overflow shared street parking. Intricate design elements adorn the property throughout, and a city-approved landscape plan ensures this entire project will have high curb appeal from all directions.
The Caldava Mixed-Use Project will be constructed on the empty lots at 1430 S. El Camino Real. This approximately 23,545-square-foot, two-story mixed-use building will hold 10 apartment units on the top floor, office and retail space on the first floor, and subterranean parking for 49 vehicles.
One of the residential units will be designated as “affordable at the low-income level” and must adhere to strict ongoing governmental standards for this designation. Unlike the other two developments mentioned here, this is the only project that runs just across the line of the Coastal Commission zoning boundary and will have to seek additional permissions for the construction.
On the final corner, Tommy’s Restaurant will be torn down and replaced with the new Shoreline Dental facility. This will be an approximately 6,000-square-foot, two-story commercial building with a dental office on the first floor and general office suites upstairs. Shoreline Dental’s San Clemente location is currently at 122 Avenida Cabrillo.
By revitalizing these yearslong unused spaces along a significant transit corridor, these projects will provide crucial opportunities for living and working in San Clemente. As the SC beach kids of the 1990s and early 2000s begin to have children of their own, preparations are imperative now to meet the generational needs of future housing and employment options.
Keep an eye on southwest San Clemente in the coming years. With a still bountiful harvest of unused land, a smattering of seriously declining older structures, and many original real estate owners aging out, we are sure to see additional infill housing and live/work projects thrive in this area for the next generation to continue the legacy of Ole Hanson’s dream.
Jim Wynne, president of WynneCRE, is a San Clemente local, San Onofre Surfing Club president, and father of five, who serves as the immediate past chairman for the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce. Arrow Santos is a San Clemente native, professional writer/photographer and marketing director of WynneCRE.
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