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Direct Relief Headquarters Project Gets Warm Reception for Santa Barbara Airport Site

Planning commissioners laud proposed state-of-the-art facility on property once considered for a Target

Direct Relief is planning to build a 155,000-square-foot facility on Santa Barbara Airport property at 6100 Hollister Ave.
Direct Relief is planning to build a 155,000-square-foot facility on Santa Barbara Airport property at 6100 Hollister Ave. (DMHA Architecture rendering)

One of the world’s largest humanitarian aid organizations wants to build a modern campus on City of Santa Barbara-owned property near Goleta — on a site once considered for a proposed Target store.

Direct Relief has submitted plans to build a new storage and distribution warehouse with a two-story administrative office building and 162 parking spaces.

The Planning Commission reviewed the project at Thursday’s meeting.

The 155,000-square-foot, 40-foot tall facility is proposed for land that Direct Relief plans to purchase from the city. The address is 6100 Hollister Ave., but that will be changed to 6100 Wallace Becknell Road.

Over the years, several groups have approached the city with development proposals, but all of them, including plans for a Target, never panned out. Part of the site is currently occupied by industrial buildings and a camper shell company. In all, 11 buildings will be demolished.

“It’s a large project in size, but in purpose as well,” said Suzanne Elledge, president of Suzanne Elledge Planning & Permitting Services. “It is a very significant project.”

The nonprofit Direct Relief was founded in 1948 in Santa Barbara. Its headquarters, at 27 and 30 S. La Patera Lane, consists of 50,800 square feet of warehouse space, 14,640 square feet of office space and 124 parking spaces.

Direct Relief strives to help people living in poverty or emergency situations by mobilizing and providing medicines, supplies, equipment and other medical resources. It works with local health-care organizations in all 50 U.S. states and 70 countries.

The organization ships supplies via FedEx airplanes from the nearby Santa Barbara Airport

Direct Relief officials say they need a larger building in anticipation of the organization’s growth needs. It currently is running “well-beyond” capacity and could fill about 100,000 square feet of space today, they say.

The new Direct Relief headquarter is being designed to meet the organization's needs for at least the next 30-50 years.

Because of the nature of Direct Relief's work, Elledge said the building will be “cost-effective, environmentally responsible, humble and nonostentatious.”

There will be a focus, however, on state-of-the-art technology to power information systems, create a worldwide communications and shipping network, and install modern storage and warehousing of pharmaceutical products.

Planning commissioners were supportive of the project and the building design at the meeting.

Commissioner Deborah Schwartz asked Direct Relief officials if the building could be dressed up with any artistic elements. She said that area of Goleta is expanding its industrial, light manufacturing uses, and Direct Relief could set a tone for other nearby buildings.

“This is an area that is going to be viewed in transition,” she said. “There are numerous opportunities with this project to reference that transition.”

Schwartz said the site is “a perfect location” for Direct Relief.

“There’s an opportunity to make this a bit more interesting in terms of facing Hollister Avenue,” she said. “I think there’s an opportunity her for some art. I am just confident this will be a standout project for the city of Santa Barbara.”

Commissioner Michael Jordan gushed over the proposal.

“This is a great project,” he told the Direct Relief team. “This is a win for both you and the city.”

Project lead architect Michael Holliday, partner with DMHA Architecture + Interior Design, said after the meeting that he was pleased with the commission’s reception.

“Direct Relief is a world-class organization, and for them to be investing their future in our community is a blessing that the Central Coast region will benefit from both in the short and long term,” he told Noozhawk.

“Locating their new world headquarters and distribution center on the city airport industrial property is a very good fit for that area. ... Their presence will continue to be of benefit to the existing businesses in the region as well.”

The development team is working with landscape architect Courtney Jane Miller. The building will be surrounded by dozens of trees, and the site will include state-of-the-art storm water management.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

The proposed Direct Relief project includes a new storage and distribution warehouse, a two-story administrative office building and 162 parking spaces. Click to view larger
The proposed Direct Relief project includes a new storage and distribution warehouse, a two-story administrative office building and 162 parking spaces. (DMHA Architecture rendering)

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