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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?

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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