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BelAir Cantina Sails Through Design Review

With only a couple of small concerns and a good deal of admiration, Design Review Board unanimously approves plan for Mexican restaurant at 68th and North.

The design plan for the BelAir Cantina won unanimous approval Thursday night for its design plan, with no more than a couple of nitpicks – and a lot of praise from an area expert.

"It's a beautiful building," said Ed Haydin, Commerical Design Review Board member, architect and a leader of the East Tosa Alliance. "It's going to establish some style on North Avenue."

Haydin especially liked what's being done with the outdoor seating spaces, he said.

"It's going to be a place to see and be seen," he said. "That's become a common theme in urban planning, to not only see from the inside out but to be seen from the outside in."

Interestingly, the only concerns shown by board members were associated with that space.

"One of the things that came out was that they be a little more sensitive to the landscape," Haydin said. "There's an enclosed space, a little room outside, that's next to the Rosebud, and it would be walled with wood-formed concrete. The concrete picks up the grain of the wood."

"It would have greenery on it, and it's all very tactile," Haydin said. "But there was some concern – 'Is it the right material?'

"In my mind it, is."

The other concern from the board was the use of rotted granite as flooring for the outdoor area, Haydin said – though again, he disagreed with the sentiment.

"You can add a polymer to make it really pretty tight and stable, but still, if you spill anything on it you really can't clean it up," he said. "So, they were asked to re-evaluate the use of that material.

"But in my mind, it reduces the impervious surface of the site and so reduces runoff. Right now, that whole site is impervious. And here we are with an elegant solution: The water that falls on the site stays on the site."

Otherwise, Haydin said, the board saw the BelAir plan as using an old, out-of-date building in a very up-to-date way without practically tearing it apart and starting over.

"It's shabby-chic," Haydin said, "which is really good and really popular. Scott (co-ownerer Scott Johnson, of Mojofuco Restaurants) is going to do it right."

"The game is being stepped up, first with Rocket Baby, then over to the Rosebud, and now with BelAir," he said.

Haydin said that he's felt that East Tosa residents had gotten used to feeling that the forlorn storefronts of The Avenue were just something they had to live with.

Inside, businesses might do good things with food, services, products, but the mishmash of building styles and dated designs, many with no classic connotations, was there to stay.

Now, "There's some serious money being spent by people coming from the outside," Haydin said. "You some it with Rocket Baby, with its southern exposure and French motif. The standard is being established."

"And what's really happening is the businesses are starting to reflect the style and values of the neighborhood."

Christine McLaughlin October 06, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Years and years ago I used to house sit for a house on Lake Drive that had been featured in Life magazine. One of the most interesting things in it was the use of polished concrete for floors. When you buff it up it looks like terrazzo. So all sorts of different ways to use concrete. This sounds great!

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