A would-be wine bar and restaurant topped with elegant abodes is working its way through the city of Ashland planning process and could be built by the beginning of 2013, a developer of the project said.

A would-be wine bar and restaurant topped with elegant abodes is working its way through the city of Ashland planning process and could be built by the beginning of 2013, a developer of the project said.

Squeezed between two existing structures in the island of businesses surrounded by East Main Street and Lithia Way in downtown Ashland, The Vine would serve as an in-town tasting room for nearby Irvine Vineyards with suite-style accommodations on the second and third floors.

The Ashland Planning Commission Tuesday on July 10 unanimously approved preliminary permits allowing property owners Doug and Dionne Irvine to begin a request for proposal process with interested bidders.

The Irvines will still need to apply for a building permit with the city before breaking ground on the project, but plan to begin that process by October, Doug Irvine said.

The 13,800-square-foot "historically compatible" building would house five kitchen-suite hotel rooms on the second floor and five apartments on the third floor of the about 40-foot tall building, said architect Jerome White. A 3,300-square-foot restaurant would cover the ground floor, with three doorways facing Lithia Way.

White is working on the project with other architects at Ashland-based Kistler, Small and White Architects, he said.

Six parking units will serve the structure from Will Dodge Way, he said.

"There were a lot of constraints and parameters around designing on a lot like this," White said. "It used to be city property ... and there is just a rat nest of utilities."

The Irvines, who have lived on their 30-acre vineyard outside Ashland for 15 years, purchased the parking lot at 160 Lithia Way from the city of Ashland in 2008 for $500,000, according to Jackson County property data.

The vineyard is becoming well-known for its pinot noir vintages; its first was in 2009.

"We started out as small operation, and we were producing some pretty good wine, and it just exceeded everything that we were expecting," Doug Irvine, a former real estate developer, said. "It's just kind of dumb luck that we got involved, but we don't cut any corners when we make our wine."

Irvine said he expects The Vine to flourish in the heart of Southern Oregon's growing wine culture and industry and have a hand in building it up.

"Southern Oregon wines are just really booming right now," he said. "It's just the beginning of this wine venture that everybody is experiencing here in the Rogue Valley."

If "sticks and brick start going up," by next January, Irvine said, The Vine should be ready for customers by the time vineyards' 2013 vintages start hitting shelves the following year.

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.