Is a transformation due for Mammoths main street? Thats the talk these days. Officials unveiled three concepts for the downtown area (Main Street, North Old Mammoth Road and Shady Rest) at the Oct. 13 workshop the Town and Mammoth Mountain Ski Area held for the Main Street Neighborhood District Planning process.
The Town’s Community Development Director Mark Wardlaw led the group of about 20 attendees through the three concepts. The first was the extreme change proposed by Hart Howerton, the design firm working with Chadmar and the Snowcreek VIII development in Mammoth and most recently commissioned to help with the downtown project.
The Hart Howerton concept completely wipes Main Street clean and starts with a blank slate, putting parks, hotel districts, and a gondola where the designer deemed it would best fit regardless of what is there now. According to MMSA’s Vice President of Real Estate Development Jim Smith, that was what the Mountain asked them to do when coming up with the concept.
“We told them to build Mammoth from scratch so that we would have a basis for discussion and analysis,” Smith said. “We wanted to create bookends to figure out what works.”
The other side of the bookends is concept number three: to do nothing. Somewhere in between the extreme and the do nothing are the incremental improvements that will be most efficient, which was concept number two. In order to begin determining what these improvements will be, the attendees broke into two work groups to discuss what they envisioned on either side of Main Street in the future. Their ideas will be incorporated into plans that are expected to come back before the public in November or December.
Many in town have concerns over why Mammoth Mountain has taken such an interest in the Downtown Neighborhood District Plan, thinking that the Mountain is trying to take over the project. According to Smith that is not the case.
“The Mountain only owns a small lot where we have Kids Corner in this Neighborhood District Planning area,” Smith said. “Our reason for getting involved was to get the discussion going.” Smith claimed that the Neighborhood District Planning process had been done in an inappropriate fashion thus far. “It seems backwards to have a developer who is in the process of getting a use permit being the one to shape the plan,” Smith said. “Obviously they are going to make their project fit.”
According to Smith, even though MMSA is a developer, they do not own this downtown project, they were just trying to be the catalyst to get the process moving.
Neighborhood District Planning came into play when the Town was trying to get its General Plan Update adopted in 2007. There were still many items that the community had not agreed on, such as which areas of town should have more height and density. These discussions were pushed off onto district planning to be solved. The way the process has been run so far, if a developer wants to build a project and a district plan has not yet been done for the area in which he or she plans to build, they are responsible for doing the study.