The owners of Seattle-based Storyville Coffee Company are proposing to replace a small, run-down building next to Lithia Park with a three-story, lodge-style restaurant.
The location at 85 Winburn Way is highly visible to residents and tourists who visit Ashland's signature park.
The small building at that site, which has previously operated as a creamery, ice cream parlor and hamburger stand, was used this summer as a concession stand for sales of beverages and snacks.
It is now open on weekends as a concession stand, said current owner Maya Viknius.
She said she has not yet had time to thoroughly review the proposal for a restaurant on the site, but is interested in selling her property.
Viknius said the location is good, but the building's age hinders business.
Storyville Coffee Company owners Jon and Esther Phelps, who own a second home in Ashland, would like to build a restaurant that livens up the side of Winburn Way that is across from Lithia Park, said Mark Knox, a local land-use planning consultant who is working on the project with other local development professionals.
"We think we've come up with a very dramatic, beautiful building," Knox said.
"It is an experience that we hope we're creating here."
There would be no coffee roasting at the restaurant, he said.
Coffee-roasting businesses sometimes generate complaints about smoke and odors.
The restaurant would have a basement topped by three above-ground levels. The ground level would have indoor and outdoor dining areas with fireplaces. The restaurant would be next to the Rotary Centennial Ice Rink that is erected each winter on a parking lot to the south of the proposed restaurant. Also on the ground level would be an outdoor-patio seating area, concession stand and fireplace that could be used by ice-rink visitors.
The Phelpses are asking to have a small piece of parks department-owned land near the ice rink in order to make the patio area by the rink larger. The enlarged patio would not intrude on the space used for the ice rink, they said.
The second floor of the restaurant would have more indoor dining spaces, as well as patios.
The third level would have a central observation deck covered by a peaked, glass roof. Rooftop gardens would extend on both sides of the observation deck.
The design mixes wood and river rock construction materials to foster an historic-lodge appearance, with modern-looking glass architectural features.
At their cost, the Phelpses have proposed constructing a heated building with restrooms and space to park a Zamboni ice-smoothing machine on the far side of the ice rink. Last winter, Ashland Parks & Recreation Department rink employees worked out of portable trailer pods. The ice rink was served by portable toilets.
Knox said the restaurant, plus the new facilities for ice rink employees and visitors, would improve winter recreation opportunities in Ashland for residents and tourists, stimulating Ashland's slow winter economy.
The Phelpses would also make sidewalk improvements and upgrade the courtyard of the Ashland Parks & Recreation Department-owned Pioneer Hall that is to the north of the proposed restaurant.
"We think there's a lot of civic-mindedness in these plans," Knox said.
More than two dozen trees are on the site. Five would be removed and two would be transplanted elsewhere. One corner of the basement would be curved inward to avoid intruding on a large oak, which would be preserved, according to architectural and landscape plans.
Knox and other development professionals gave a presentation on the proposal to the Ashland Parks & Recreation Commission on Monday. They hope to appear before the Ashland Planning Commission and Ashland Historic Commission in November, Knox said.
The land where the concession stand now sits is zoned for residential use. Jon and Esther Phelps are proposing that the entire street-side be rezoned for commercial-downtown use, which would make the area across from Lithia Park have the same zoning as the rest of downtown.
"It would be a major mistake to let this property languish, and then the market turns around and it develops as a single-family house," Knox said.
Commercial zoning would allow the Parks Department to rent its Pioneer Hall out to more people. The department currently has to turn down requests from people who want to use the hall temporarily to hold rummage sales, sell rugs or engage in other commercial activities, Parks Director Don Robertson said.
City rules restrict commercial activities in Lithia Park itself.
Robertson said the proposal to build a permanent, heated facility for ice skate rentals and restrooms next to the ice rink is consistent with what parks staff members feel is needed in the future at the rink. He said parks staff and Ashland Rotary members have had preliminary discussions about Rotary members raising funds for the improvements.
If the property was zoned for commercial downtown use, the Phelpses would not have to provide additional parking spaces to serve the restaurant, Knox said.
While parking near Lithia Park is generally not a problem in winter, parking spots are scarce in the summer.
With the proposal beginning its way through Ashland's planning process, Knox said he doesn't know yet what opposition might be out there.
"This is Ashland. Probably someone out there will take issue with the design," he said.
Several years ago when the city of Ashland built its large Community Development and Engineering Services building at 51 Winburn Way, near the entrance to Lithia Park, that project was appealed to the state Land Use Board of Appeals.
The proposed restaurant would take up a smaller amount of space on the ground than the city's building, but it would be taller, Knox said.
The single-story Community Development and Engineering Services building takes up 10,560 square feet on the ground, he said.
The proposed restaurant would take up 3,965 square feet on the ground. With its multiple levels, the total square footage of the building would be 10,632 square feet, counting the basement, Knox said.
At 360 square feet, the third level observation deck is relatively small, about the size of a two-car garage, he said.
It would provide views of the rooftop gardens and Lithia Park.
Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or email@example.com.