The Poway City Council unanimously approved a façade remodel for the former Atlas Market in the Twin Peaks Plaza for an unnamed future tenant.
The council members said they were focusing only on the look of the remodel during Tuesday night’s meeting.
The exterior façade remodel was approved for the former Atlas Market and several of the surrounding buildings owned by Regency Centers LP. The remodel excludes the Target building, the Outback restaurant, Corepower Yoga and the standalone buildings in the center, as they have different owners.
The council members made clear they were not approving the use of the building or any zoning change at the meeting, only the remodel, but anyone moving into the vacant space will have to comply with zoning and regulations.
A tenant has signed a lease to occupy the former Atlas Market, said Patrick Conway of Regency Centers LP, but he cannot disclose the name of the new business. Conway said he hoped to be able to share it in 30 to 60 days.
Conway said it will be a state-of-the-art grocer and a high-class operation. The new tenant will hire hundreds of employees locally, he said, and plans to make donations to local food banks.
One public speaker calling into the meeting, as well as a community member who sent the council an email, speculated the tenant is Amazon Fresh, Amazon’s new grocery store venture. Its first store opened in late August in Woodland Hills, California.
Multiple emails from Poway residents and Twin Peaks Plaza businesses supported the idea of a new grocery store going into the space, saying they wanted to buy groceries in Poway, not Carmel Mountain Ranch, and an anchor grocery store would help other businesses in the center.
The council members agreed the center needs a remodel and supported the design submitted, which includes a modern boxy façade and replacing the Roman columns with square pillars. It will use earth tones and retain the living wall feature to the right of the grocery store space.
Deputy Mayor Caylin Frank said the store would be a huge anchor for the center and it is a huge investment of Regency Centers LP to “put some TLC” into the center. Frank added she hopes to see the other tenants in the center follow suit.
“Some love and attention for our shopping centers is always a good thing,” Frank said.
Councilman Dave Grosch said it will be a good change, and the other businesses in the center he spoke with are happy and primed for a grocery outlet. He said it will be a great boost to the businesses in the center.
Councilman Barry Leonard said the redesign seems very consistent with the Target façade and it is always important to update retail. He also cited the lease, the tenant being serious, the hundreds of jobs it could bring to Poway and the donations to food banks as positives, as well as the support from other businesses in the center.
Councilman John Mullin said he did not realize how tired the center looks until he went out there. He said there is little conformity between the various buildings in the shopping center. He approved the latest iteration of the design, calling it less institutional and more consistent with Poway.
Mayor Steve Vaus said he loves to give an opportunity to have a serious magnet to draw people to Poway and is 110 percent behind the new store and design.
The council also approved using approximately $48,000 from the $246,266 the city received from round three CARES Act CDBG-CV funds to provide internet access and portable hot spots to 200 low-income families in Poway to facilitate distance learning.
Vaus said he was concerned about the impact of virtual learning on students, citing stories of children using fast food restaurant Wi-Fi because they do not have internet access at home. He said the proposition is in the same spirit as offering small business loans, lending picnic tables to restaurants for outdoor dining and allowing gyms and houses of worship to use parks for outdoor services.
“I think we owe it to our kids,” he said.
One community member commented on the item. Chris Olps, a candidate running against Frank for the District 4 council seat, said the school district is already supplying internet and Wi-Fi devices to families through the County Office of Education. Olps said he is wondering if the city has accounted for this. Vaus said he spoke with Jennifer Burks, Poway Unified School District’s associate superintendent of technology and innovation, who confirmed there is not enough funding from the county office for all PUSD students and there are 200 Poway families still in need of internet.
The council unanimously supported the idea. Frank said it was a fantastic use of the funds and she could not think of a better thing to do than help families get the internet they need. Mullin thanked Vaus for bringing the item forward, saying it is a “driving, serious problem” and it is a better use of the funds than anything else.