A San Luis Obispo-based company wants to open a climbing wall business in downtown Santa Barbara.
The founder of the business, Yishai Horowitz, wants to add a second story to the former Staples building at 410 State St. He’s working with architect Brian Cearnal, who has proposed lifting the current ceiling about 7,734 square feet and creating a mezzanine. The proposal would not affect the proposed 84 apartments slated for the parking lot area behind Staples.
“This is a very interesting option for State Street,” said Cearnal, who designed the Staples building in 1990. “It is a potential fascinating alternative to our large retail spaces, like this old Staples building.”
As retail continues to struggle downtown, property owners and developers are looking at alternative, experiential uses for State Street. At the same time, some city leaders are pushing for housing downtown as a way to create a built-in, downtown populace to frequent the restaurants, bars and activities.
The climbing wall business is decidedly young, recreational and in stride with the vision of some city planners, who have attempted to transform State Street into Shangri-la for millennial walkers, bikers and bargoers.
The Historic Landmarks Commission gave mostly positive comments to the project, but urged Cearnal to eliminate some of the windows and add some “poetry” to the building. The commission gave the project an “indefinite continuance” so that Cearnal could tweak the design.
Commissioner Dennis Doordan said he was supportive of the concept and that something like it could work in Santa Barbara, but he wanted more pizzazz.
“We don’t want this to be a plain building,” Doordan said. “It can be a simple building.”
He said the building should catch people’s eye.
“I don’t want a big white box there,” Doordan said. “I want something with some architectural character.”
In San Luis Obispo, the business is billed as “Climbing. Community. Fitness. Love.” Horowitz also owns Pad Climbing in Henderson, Nevada.
According to the San Luis Obispo location rates, it costs $23 for a day pass and $750 for an annual pass. A 10-punch pass is $200.
Horowitz said at the meeting that he’s had his eye on Santa Barbara as a place for expansion.
“We have been looking at the Santa Barbara market for the past four years,” he said. “We are hoping to bring a modern, world-class, indoor climbing facility for not only the area’s climbers but the community as a whole.”
The building is proposed to reach 45 feet in height.
Historic Landmarks Commission member Robert Ooley joked that he’s not a climber, but he expects the business to be popular in Santa Barbara.
“I think this is very exciting,” Ooley said. “I know a lot of people who enjoy this activity, so it would be very exciting to have an outlet for them.”
The proposed location is a half-block away from the Santa Barbara Rock Gym, a climbing gym that opened in 2012.