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Dream of a New Ramona Town Square Endorsed by Planning Group

Early plans for the 20-acre site include a "box store" that would allow funding for a plaza of pedestrian friendly shops, restaurants and a park.

Cafe Street illustration.
Cafe Street illustration.
The dream of creating a town square atmosphere in Ramona, a place to hang out, shop, eat and drink at small sidewalk cafes, bars, local produce, an art gallery, even a place for kids to fish, was presented to an interested Ramona Community Planning Group at their meeting Thursday.

Most of the group spoke favorably of the idea, which is in it's early conceptual phases, but had concerns with working out the details, especially concerning the need to tie the town square and park environment to a "box store" in order to pay for the project. No vote was made by the planning group.

"My hope is to create a sense of citizenship, a town square where people can share ideas," said Jim Hagey, who owns 20 acres around Elliott Pond, between Ramona and 16th Streets, about 210 yards south of Main Street.

His idea for the area includes three or four small sidewalk cafes, a wine bar, brew pub, art gallery, gazebo for plays, a place for yoga, free Wi-Fi, with the pond in the middle and a lot of shade. It would include a plaza that restaurants share he suggested a local harvest restaurant, with locally grown food.

The catch is that a "box store," such as Trader Joes or Target, would need to sign on to occupy a large chunk of the land and hep fund the town square, otherwise it would be impossible to finance, he said. 

"If a big box wants to come to town and occupy southern section [of Elliot Pond], they could only do it if they help entitle the town square as a benefit to Ramona," he told the planning group.

Planner Carl Hickman wondered whether a corporate store would be interested in opening at that site.

"A big box is looking for passerby's, Ramona Street wont support that volume," said Hickman. "The surroundings will need pedestrian infrastructure to bring them to the park."

Ideally the town square would be a pedestrian friendly six acres, said Hagey, adding that sidewalks along H Street would be improved and added.

"I want a rural feeling on the pond, don't want buildings or parking lots coming up to the pond," said Hagey. "Ramona needs this; it's such a friendly town that it's natural."

He even said he wants to put some cows on the property.

Hagey's previous concept for that area was a unique "walkable community," with a pre-1940s feel to it. That project fell apart around the time of the recession because homes on 6,000 square-foot lots would have to be sold for about $450,000. Not something that would have been viable at the time. Cafe Street, which is pictured in images, would keep some of that pre-1940s feel.

Hagey said he's asked all around town what residents would like to see on that land, and he said he's still open to suggestions.

"Teens and others said give us anything, theres nothing to do… give us a place to hang out," said Hagey.

One planner suggested that if the big retail store doesn't work, the town would enjoy a movie theater or a bowling alley.

Planners suggested other potentially roadblocks to the idea, such as some intense seasonal flooding in the area and possible issues with rezoning, but overall applauded Hagey's concept and gumption.

Hagey said he's in talks with brokers about the concept.

COMMENT: Do you like the town square idea? Any other suggestions for the land?

Shantel Newman January 10, 2014 at 10:17 PM
My name is Shantel, I am 17 years old and I have lived here all my life, after reading this article I strongly disagree with the idea of a plaza. I feel that if we want to "keep the small town feel", I suggest that we leave it alone. We already have two Starbucks coffee shops and two Subway restaurants, we don't need a plaza, granted it will bring in business for our local wineries, but if the committee wants to keep the people of the town happy, we should restore the historical landmarks of Ramona instead of changing everything about it.
Ann Runser January 10, 2014 at 11:22 PM
Trader Joes, Trader Joes, Trader Joes!
Taylor Ferrell January 10, 2014 at 11:32 PM
Target! Trader Joes! Yes please! Something to do and jobs?! Yessssssss. Ramona can still be rural just not so boring.
Shelly Heimer January 10, 2014 at 11:45 PM
YES YES YES!!!
Rose LaRosa January 11, 2014 at 09:02 AM
Great ideas! But we've been talking about Elliot Pond for years, time to put a plan in action and create some jobs! A plaza off Main Street would be much better than all our shops directly on Main, providing a quieter and safer environment for coffee shops etc. The traffic on Main St. is loud, fast and has fumes from vehicles. And yes -- bowling alley! Would be great! Trader Joes would be my choice -- why Target when we have KMart? Target would put KMart out of business.
Drew S. January 11, 2014 at 10:18 AM
I support the project, but would like to see smaller "box" stores like a Trader Joes, a bowling alley or even a small movie theatre. We don't need a big box store to replace Kmart. If target wanted to move here, they could negotiate with Sears Holdings and likely buy the location since Kmart overall is in dire straits and teetering on bankruptcy again. Create something like the viejas outlet center with it's smaller stores, meandering stream and open air amphitheater. But make sure to build it with an eye towards having something kids can do there as well - fishing, bowling, movies or dare I say, skate park. Attract the kids and you'll have your spenders, the parents, supporting your use.
Joe Minervini January 11, 2014 at 06:37 PM
It appears to me that Shantel (read the 1st post) has a very mature opinion. Yes Shantel, lets keep Ramona Rural. The property is probably zoned for low density residential and that's what should be done there. If Hagey has a problem financing with single residential use, he'll just have to deal with it. A Target store is just around 25 minutes away in Poway. A bowling alley, c'mon get serious...how many new bowling alleys have you seen built in the last 25 years ? A skate park is already in the works...its supposed to go behind the library...problem is, it will cost close to 3/4's of a mill. Andrew has a good idea about K-mart but that is not what Hagey wants. As for a movie house, didn't one close down a few years back ? I want Ramona to stay Rural for a long, long time. Most Ramonans do not want a Poway. I'm in the phone book.
Drew S. January 11, 2014 at 08:07 PM
Just because a bowling alley hasn't been built lately doesn't mean one can't be built. Visit any bowling alley, they are packed all the time. People in Ramona drive down to Poway to bowl. People who want to go to Target, the movies, a skatepark - they are all on the road, trying to get there. Jim Hagey's proposal keeps those people up here, with something to do, as a walkable community. If you would rather have them get in a car and drive, then we need to go back to fixing the roads (which I believe you are opposed to as well, or at least seeing the one busy one which runs right past your place off Dye Road). As for the skatepark being built behind the library, it's still a dream, with no funding. Look past your own interests, and let the community have some recreation and activities to do other than antiquing, eating, and getting their nails done - stores we have plenty of, but short of emptying our wallets and filling our bellies, not much more to do for fun. See you at Starbucks, Joe.
Rebecca Schreiber January 11, 2014 at 09:43 PM
Where is Elliot Pond, exactly?
Drew S. January 11, 2014 at 09:49 PM
It's behind stater brothers on Ramona street. It's a nice pond but only filled when it rains. I think Jim Hagey once said it costs $800 a month in electricity to keep it filled, so it's only full after rains.
Ann Runser January 12, 2014 at 01:04 AM
A Joann's or Beverly's Fabric would be awesome!
Joe Minervini January 12, 2014 at 09:38 AM
Andrew, My interest is the same interest as most in Ramona, to keep Ramona Rural. As for new businesses opening in Ramona, you fail to understand one major point in regard to a business....the business must make enough profit to stay in business. I have operated and owned 4 businesses in the past so I speak from firsthand experience. I am against the South Bypass because 1) it would go through the heart of Rural Ramona and 2) it will divert traffic from businesses on Main St. and hurt those businesses. Again, for the skatepark, its in the works...despite the length of time it may take. If you want to find out more, contact Jim Cooper on the RCPG. Last time I looked, Hagey's property is zoned for multiple residential use; he should stick with that. I don't do Starbucks but I'll meet you anywhere over a beer and we can discuss my Rural interests further. If I wanted to live in a community like Poway, I would have moved there...if you want to create a Poway here, you should've moved to Poway. I'm in the phone book.
Drew S. January 12, 2014 at 11:45 AM
I'm not looking to create a Poway, Joe. I've lived here 25 years now, moved here for rural, stay here for rural. I don't leave the hill much anymore it seems as I try to support the businesses that are here. But also see a lot of misconceptions promoted, especially when it comes to the South Bypass. Not going to argue that with you here, we've done before, and we both have different opinions on it. In regards to Hagey's proposal, looking for input from all the community is what will make the project (if initiated) viable. Options like bowling alleys and skateparks should also be considered, even if you haven't seen any new ones built lately. Regarding the skatepark, it will never get built unless the current organization working on it does fundraising of their own to match PLDO funds available. That doesn't seem to be happening either. Need someone to recognize that, step up (or step down) and get it moving forward again. Remember, it's about the community. 35,000+ people have the right to provide input. Rural is wonderful. So are meeting the needs of the community. Telling someone to move away is not.
Shantel Newman January 12, 2014 at 02:37 PM
I feel as if everyone commenting on this is only thinking about what they want and not what everyone else wants. Yes, we all have our own opinions on the project but we have to think about what is best for the community. Many of the adults would be using the shopping center, and I don't think many kids will want to go fishing in the pond. Also, the Ramona Mainstage, I believe, used to be a movie theater a long time ago but they turned it into a nightclub filled with mainly adult entertainment, such as comedy, Midget wrestling, (Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.) And they plan to add a steak house right next door. And as far as I am concerned, our District does not have 3/4 mill. to spend on a skate park, but I could be wrong. If we want something that the community, like families and friends, can enjoy TOGETHER then we should consider a bowling alley. It is fun and all ages can participate.(I don't mean to go against Joe.) A bowling alley would be a small addition as opposed to a large change.
Drew S. January 12, 2014 at 03:11 PM
I don't believe it has to cost $750K to build a skatepark. That's the cost for a world-class, designed by Tony Hawke, skatepark. But how about just building a skatepark that is perhaps even built piecemeal until we've put together the whole thing over time? I know where there is a giant half-pipe in disuse, I bet the owners would be willing to sell it for not much money if it could be moved. Lay down some concrete, some ramps and other obstacles, and let's get something going for the kids already...
sandra j January 13, 2014 at 10:20 AM
they just built a new bowling alley in the westfield north county mall and it seems to be doing great.
Ron Selkovitch January 14, 2014 at 01:13 PM
I assume we are not just looking for another shopping center. We should leave the conventional shops for the main road. I envision a largely grassy area where Ramonans can come to socialize. We should have a circular stage for entertainment or more serious presentations with the audience sitting on the grass, picnic style. Food can be made available by small specialized food bars surrounding a common table area. Why not encourage "old fashioned " games like chess, chequers, horse shoes, etc. I have nothing against a bowling alley, but its just another building.
Joe Minervini January 14, 2014 at 03:10 PM
Andrew, If you truly want Ramona to stay Rural and you want to keep businesses in Ramona, you should be against the South Bypass. One has to understand the correlation between traffic count and customers. As for the Skatepark, you may recall I pushed hard some time ago, even held a big community meeting at the library. My efforts generated increased activity from a dormant skatepark group that is now home based out of the Arriba Teen Center. They are currently working on using the property behind the library called the Ramona Intergenerational Community Center (RICC) and are working with the County for funding. Yes, their vision will cost over $500,000 and they will have to raise approx. $65,000 in the form of a bond to guarantee the County continuing maintenance of the skatepark. My plan was two-phased: Phase I was a smaller skatepark inside one of the tennis courts at Collier Park....would've cost about $75,000 and the kids could've been skating starting a year ago. Phase II would've been a larger concrete skatepark built by volunteers from the Ramona community and would've cost about $300,000. At a meeting held with top people with the County Dept. of Parks and Recreation, I decided to turn over all my work to the other Aribba group because they had more people involved. If you would like to help their effort, call Nancy Roy....she's in the real estate business in Ramona. Lastly, I would like to meet with you to discuss the merits or demerits of the South Bypass. Call me, my cell is 619/204-0391.
Rose LaRosa January 15, 2014 at 12:10 AM
I like Ron's ideas for a grassy area for socializing and musical entertainment. I wonder if boccie ball - lawn bowling -- could become a fun activity to include. Maybe include a place for Ramona artists to display their work?
Shantel Newman January 15, 2014 at 05:06 PM
All of these ideas are just going to lead the rich become richer and the poor becoming poorer. If we build this plaza its only going to mainly entertain the adults, what are the kids gonna do? Yes, a pond will be put in as well where they can fish but does anyone realize that we'd have to stock the pond and put in a bait and tackle shop? Did I also mention that usually when you fish, by law you must have a fishing license? And we have parks that were built so that people could sit and watch performances, but correct if me if I'm wrong, we haven't had that happen in a while.

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