The Six Blocks holdovers: Sherwin-Williams, More Music and SCFAA

New construction near the San Lorenzo River and Laurel and Front streets in downtown Santa Cruz
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The planned overhaul along Front Street might seem like one of the first steps toward an unrecognizable downtown Santa Cruz, but some reminders of today will remain. More Music, Sherwin-Williams Paints and the narrow building acting as home of the Santa Cruz Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, directly adjacent to the former locations of India Joze and The 418 Project, are staying right where they are. But if these businesses do move elsewhere in the future, what does that mean for the land they currently occupy?

changing santa cruz sig

There are a lot of new faces coming to downtown Santa Cruz. Last week, Lookout reported on a six-block area along Front Street undergoing a massive transformation, with no fewer than six big development projects in various stages of proposal, approval and construction. Those new Front Street faces are set to include a hotel, numerous housing projects totaling 820 units with nearby cafes and restaurants, an activated riverfront and a revamped Metro bus station.

But what about the older faces of lower downtown? How many of those might remain when all the dust settles?

Though lower Front along the San Lorenzo River is in for a serious makeover, not all on Front Street will be brand new. Some familiar storefronts will stay untouched — at least for now — as the buildings around them shoot up to six and seven stories.

If you needed a fresh coat of paint for your room, you might have headed straight for Sherwin-Williams Paints at 408 Front St. Maybe you needed your Gibson electric guitar restrung or wanted to learn to play a new instrument, for which More Music at 512 Front has you covered. If you or a loved one has struggled with addiction, you might be familiar with the Santa Cruz Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous (SCFAA) in a narrow building at 412 Front, next door to the former homes of longtime Eurasian-fusion eatery India Joze and The 418 Project, a dance and performance-oriented community space.

Map of the Front Street area as envisioned in the Downtown Plan, with the locations of the three holdouts pointed out.
(Via City of Santa Cruz)

All three of these places will stay right where they are.

Lee Butler, director of planning and community development for the City of Santa Cruz, said the city “has not sought to acquire these properties.” However, he noted that representatives of surrounding project did make offers for the More Music facility, and might have for Sherwin-Williams, too.

However, those offers didn’t seem to change any minds.

The current property owners of More Music and Sherwin-Williams did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but More Music is still offering lessons and equipment sales via appointment, and Sherwin-Williams is on a longer-term lease. Kerri Fong, central office manager for Alcoholics Anonymous Santa Cruz, said that meetings have been held at various locations in downtown Santa Cruz since the 1940s, and there are no plans to halt SCFAA services or relocate from its Front Street location at this time.

Though it appears that these businesses are in it for the long haul, only time will tell if they stay for good. As redevelopment moves forward, the market changes for all parcels in the area as the city and developers gauge the potential of each property.

That said, in the (seemingly unlikely) event that one, two or all three of these establishments vacate the area, the parcels could be used for just about anything. The parcels’ current zoning places them in the “commercial” land-use category, which allows for ground-level commercial uses such as retail, personal service and financial and office-related uses.

With necessary special-use or administrative-use permits, developments in the Downtown Plan area can allow all types of commercial and institutional/community facilities, as well as all residential facilities except community care residential establishments and one- and two-family dwellings.

Further, the Downtown Plan allows developments on Front Street to reach up to 70 feet under certain conditions. With the three parcels in question primed for change despite nothing of the sort lined up so far, quick action from the city or from developers is highly possible if any of the buildings open up.

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