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By Chris Frost
Oxnard-- The January Harbor Visioning Workshop continues with Victoria Ave opportunity parcels, concepts, and precedents.
Channel Islands Harbor is run down, unattractive, and sorely needs a makeover. The visioning committee is exploring potential options at the harbor to reach a consensus to move forward.
Dave Sargent of Sargent Town Planning said the Fisherman's Wharf site is the most widely discussed and disagreed piece of the project at Channel Islands Blvd and Victoria Ave.
The area was developed many years ago with wooden Cape-Cod-style buildings, and over time, most of the businesses have faded, and the buildings are dilapidated.
"It's coming up for release, and it needs something new," Sargent said. "It looks pretty nice from the street, but these are backs of the building, and they look pretty dolled up. The fronts face the parking lot, and things are not very busy these days. The waterside is lovely. The Wharf you can see clearly from the Channel Islands bridge, and it can become the center point of something different."
He said the public and steering committee have many great ideas for Fisherman's Wharf, and they envision a public market.
"We're thinking that there is a possibility that it can be a venue where the best bounties of the sea, the fresh seafood coming out of the ocean, and the best of Ventura County's agriculture which our county is so famous," he said. "It can showcase, along with local arts and crafts, these types of food halls that are increasingly popular throughout the nation. Also, the environment along the wharf, where you can dine outside, watch the boats and watch the fish come in and enjoy the waterfront atmosphere, stroll, and shop. Our retail strategy advisor tells us that it will be important for us to have some tie-ins with the Channel Islands and perhaps some educational facilities. There's already a small aquarium there operated by Oxnard College. Perhaps there can be an expanded visitor center there where people can learn about the Channel Islands and maybe buy tickets to go out to the islands with Island Packers."
He also suggested a mixed-use development with retail shops along the water's edge, and maybe some office spaces and a boutique hotel with a courtyard full of dining.
Probably to help make the thing profitable and pay for some of the much-needed improvements, housing can be integrated upstairs from some of the retail uses; some of them can be over shops looking out into the water," he said. "There is an example in Ventura Harbor, which is just being completed now, called Port Side. My firm master-planned this. We didn't design it. The harbor in Ventura was looking for a mix of waterfront shops and housing to generate the income they needed, so this project is still under construction. It was pointed out by the steering committee as something that can be part of the mix."
Sargent and his firm made an illustration and pointed out that it wasn't a project.
"It is a possibility based on what we heard people would like to see," he said. "Since we design, we made some sketches of how that might work. There's a lot of open space along a rebuilt and expanded wharf. There is a long waterfront promenade, a small street that allows people to come in and find parking and find a friendly little pedestrian shopping street up to a courtyard. Probably up to the corner, it will be built with visitor-serving commercial uses and boutique offices on upper floors and a visitor's center, we would hope, and perhaps part of this can be a boutique hotel with 100-150 rooms looking out; over the water."
He said there would most likely be apartments, condos, or some type of live-work units that support the cost of building public-serving facilities.
"There will be a lot of water recreation access, a water taxi, a public park, and public restrooms," he said. "The payoff would be in these open spaces and provide venues for some special events. Just some everyday gathering outdoors. It can be an annex to the existing farmers' market. There can also be outdoor performance venues."
Sargent said a ground floor full of parking isn't much to admire for to walk, and they don't suggest that it be an option.
"We're suggesting the shops would be 30-50 feet deep, and the parking would be behind them," he said. "It would be invisible to the shoppers and pedestrians enjoying the space.
He proposed an access road off Channel Island Blvd with a bicycle path where visitors can stop by and buy fresh fish from the boat.
"Cars can come in, see what's going on, and find a parking space," he said. "With the activity spilling out from the market hall into the plaza a little bit every day and a lot during special events."
Sargent said the area south of the boat ramp, which is on a short-term lease that is coming up, and the committee had a "really cool idea."
"The parcel includes a big open area, a little building, the parking lot, and a bunch of waterside space," he said. "The idea was that a unique lodging facility. There is a hard-to-find unique waypoint facility in Ventura on Front Street. It's a Trailer Hotel with classic Airstream Trailers, and you can bring your own tailer. It's a trailer-campground-hotel facility where there's communal dining, barbecuing, and outdoor fireplace facilities. Imagine how cool that would be on the water. It would be a unique alternative to a motel or hotel on the freeway."
He proposed a facility on the water where someone can rent a houseboat.
"It would be a unique lodging facility and a low capital investment operation that could be potentially developed quickly and provide a unique facility that you don't have any competition for," he said. "The existing facility might stay as a restroom or snack bar with trailers on the land and boats on the water. There will be a water taxi stop at the end and guest docks so friends and relatives can stop by and visit you. There can see the new and improved promenade and new an improved walkway and bike path."
He called Victoria Ave the backside of boatyards.
"We're looking at it as an opportunity for Victoria to be a new front entry to a lot of these parcels," he said.
This story will continue on Feb. 26 online, at tricountysentry.com.