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?