An eight-unit housing project going up at 421 E. Cota St. not only is replacing consignment store Cominichi’s, but part of Santa Barbara’s history.
Transition House’s new development is designed for homeless families with children with special needs. It will include an expanded 25-baby infant care facility at the site of the old Mom’s Restaurant building, which operated at the location for 62 years. Cominichi’s had been at the location owned by Transition House since 2004, knowing it would eventually have to move out.
“We spent a lot of money redoing faulty wiring, plumbing and water damage,” Cominichi’s owner Gina Comin said.
Mom’s Restaurant started in the 1920s headed by a northern Italian family. Coincidentally, the contractor Transition House that hired to destroy and construct the project — of Melchiori Construction Company — is a grandson of that family who immigrated to the United States.
“It’s incredible because it’s such a historical place,” Comin said. “As you know, many Italians came to Santa Barbara in the ‘20s and ‘30s.”
Cominichi’s, which originated on State Street in 1989, sells a variety of antiques, clothes and furniture from dozens of designers. It had to downsize from two stores to one when the economy suffered in 2008. It moved back to its old location at 410 E. Haley St., and Comin said it has been a blessing in disguise in terms of business.
“We’re busier now than we were before. It’s kind of better, it’s just different,” she said. “Who thought we would move one block and it would be so different?”
Comin said the store weathered the economic downturn well because each of the designers rents out a space in the store and contributes to the rent.
Kathleen Baushke, executive director of Transition House, said the organization tried to preserve the building, but it just wasn’t up to standards.
“There wasn’t any way that we are able to save what was existing,” she said. “When we began the project we started with the idea of renovation and add on, but there was no way given what we had to work with.”
She added that the name was kept intact to preserve some of the building’s historical remnants.
Baushke said the project will offer supportive housing that will target people who have barriers to stability.
“There is low-income housing in the community for impoverished families, but there’s no facility that provides these services,” she said.
Comin said she is sad to see the historical location torn down, but she believes in its cause.
“I think it’s really good what’s happening there. Any social service providing for children and family is good,” she said. “The city is changing for the better.”