Debate continues over whether the architecture of the Mid Valley Mall is historically significant. | News

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Local architect Olof Dahlstrand, who designed the Mid Valley Mall in Carmel Valley, was either a master architect in his own right or a good architect who copied the styles of others. That was the crux of the debate that unfolded between residents and the building’s owner on Thursday, Feb. 3 during a hearing before the Monterey County Historic Resources Review Board.

The council continued the case until April 7 before issuing a decision on whether Dahlstrand’s design is historically significant, but not before letting the public weigh in at a public hearing.

Ultimately, the HRRB’s decision could determine whether or not Stanley Group owner Russ Stanley can update the center facade and remove the familiar breezeway from Dahlstrand’s 1966 design that connects the buildings. It faces an uphill battle from angry residents who want the center to remain as it is.

Their anger was raised in 2019 when Stanley coated and painted with white primer some of the aggregate columns designed by Dahlstrand before they had a permit. The county issued a stop work order and the painting stopped.

Residents were further alarmed when the beloved auto repair shop, Carmel Valley Auto Service, appeared to be on the verge of disappearing, after a liquor license application notice for a tasting room in wines was displayed outside the store. They complained that Stanley was trying to turn the center into a tourist destination rather than a neighborhood shopping spot. Stanley did not cross the wine tasting room and the auto shop remains.

“For some reason we got off on the wrong foot with the local bands,” Stanley told HRRB members. “That was not our intention. We wanted to be an asset to the community, an asset that the community could visit and be proud of.

Due to conflicting opinions about the historic significance of the mall, Stanley was required by the county to complete an environmental impact report costing over $94,000. (The final EIR may be expected by mid-March, county chief planning officer Craig Spencer told HRRB board members on Thursday.)

Architectural experts hired by Stanley say it’s not historically significant, and while it once had significance, numerous changes over the decades have negated it. They said in reports that Dahlstrand borrowed from other architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright and the man who designed the Del Monte Mall, John Carl Warnecke. (Dahlstrand reportedly rendered this mall for Warnecke.)

“The preponderance of the evidence is that it is not a historical resource,” Stanley’s lawyer, Anthony Lombardo, told HRRB on Thursday.

Competing experts hired by the Carmel Valley Association say the buildings have absolute historical significance and are worth saving. During the meeting, a few local architects and many residents joined in the chorus, claiming that Dahlstrand was an important architect in his own right. He designed more than 20 commercial and residential projects in Monterey County, with the 1964 Well Fargo Bank building in Carmel mentioned as a notable design. They dismissed the idea that Dahlstrand was copying Wright and others.

“Yes, Wright founded the style, but many have worked in that style,” said architect Erik Dyar, former president of the Monterey Bay chapter of the American Institute of Architects. “Dahlstrand had his own voice in this style and created important works for our region.”

At stake are potentially millions of dollars, Stanley explained, as his property would lose money as tenants vacate buildings that cannot be updated to modern standards to compete with other sites. sale to detail. He asked council to consider that a historic designation would create financial hardship. It’s a standard that can be used to decide a building’s historic significance, but Spencer told HRRB board members that planning staff determined that Mid Valley didn’t meet that standard. standard.

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