September 20, 2017
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Former Exchange Bank building in Cotati approved for make-over

By: Katheine Minkiewicz
September 8, 2017

The downtown Cotati commercial marketplace and former location of the Exchange Bank on Old Redwood Highway near La Plaza Park will get a new facelift to its exterior after the Cotati Planning Commission met Tuesday, giving the final review and approval for the fresh design. Designs presented for the building were voted on and approved 5-0.

According to a Planning Commission staff report, the application for the design was filed in late July by Avila Bunch architects and is now one step closer to gracing the old building after the initial designs were requested by the commission to be waived in a variance in an August 17 meeting, since some aspects of the design go against Cotati Downtown Plan standards.

Approval of the variance, otherwise known as permit, is needed since, “the percentage of frontage openings will be less than the design standard of 65 percent set forth in the Downtown Specific Plan.”

The building’s location sits in Cotati’s Historic Core District and consequently has to follow building designs standards established in the plan. Such standards include how wide an awning can be or how far a storefront can be set back on the street.

The design focuses on an open concept with new windows and a large outdoor patio. In the same report written by John-Paul Harries, a description of the architect’s proposal is included, outlining that the new look of the building will “... Consist of new and enlarged windows facing Old Redwood Highway, replacement of the entry door, new wall, paint and new exterior lighting… In the rear of the building, new wall cladding and a new exterior door will be added. The new exterior door will exit into a new patio area that will be enclosed by a six-foot-high cedar fence.”

While the design does not include any building additions or dimension increases to the structure itself, the city did issue a permit for the allowance of a 931 square foot addition, as well as the removal of the Exchange Bank ATM.

Commissioner Neil Hancock of the Planning Commission said of the design that he thought it was very well put together and would work well with the look of the surrounding buildings.

“I think it is very well discussed and put forward and I think it could be integrated and valuable (for the City of Cotati),” Hancock said.

Vice Chair Commissioner Hancock echoed blank thoughts on the project, saying that the design elements will fit in well with the community and that the new building will hopefully spark more downtown revitalization projects.

“I think it looks great, I really appreciate the fact that they modernized the building plans but still made it fit with our downtown and I’m hoping we’ll start off on the right foot with a good relationship with the customers,” Brady said. “And I think just seeing this design makes me excited for future projects that hopefully we’ll see come across sooner rather than later.”

The original building was constructed in 1954 solely for the purpose of housing the bank. The space has been vacant for over 90 days. According to Harries, originally a second hand retail store was going to move into the space, however the deal fell through. Now, the building will be home to a new Re/max real estate office.

The whole aim of the commission project is to add a modern yet classic twist on the commercial building.

“The application proposes design features and the door and window alterations to an existing building that result in a street-facing facade that is architecturally balanced and attractive. The design is somewhat modern in appearance, but also includes rustic elements that complement Cotati’s downtown and historic core area,” Harries’ staff report explains.

When discussing how this smaller project will add to the overall historic charm of the city, owner of the building Marc Fields who was present at the meeting said during public comment, “I’m really looking forward to this project. I do think it fits the kind of walking around downtown feel,” Fields said. He also mentioned how he believes that not only the building, but the business will ultimately benefit downtown Cotati.