There will soon be new space for independent coffee downtown.
The owners of Mishka’s Cafe are currently negotiating the final terms of an agreement with the city of Davis to construct a new building on land to the west of the Varsity Theatre. The plan is to build a two-story, 5,000-square-foot building between the Varsity Theatre and the Dresbach-Hunt-Boyer Mansion on Second Street.
The final agreement is being worked out by attorneys, and the city council will ratify the agreement within the next few weeks, said Mishka’s owner Sinisa Novakovic.
“I’m having the first meeting with the architects tomorrow,” Novakovic said Sunday.
Mishka’s current lease for the 514 Second St. location expires in June 2009, he said, so construction of the new building will have to be completed before then.
The building will include a natural clay brick exterior, solar panels and basement storage. It will provide approximately 1,700 square feet of retail space downstairs, which is slightly larger than the 1,500 square feet of space Mishka’s currently occupies. The second story will be leased for office space.
“I’ll pour my soul and everything I have into it to make it a unique coffee shop that everyone will remember and want to come to for a long time,” Novakovic said.
That land where the new building is slated to be built is currently occupied by the Tank House, a structure built sometime between 1874 and 1888 to supply water for the adjacent Dresbach-Hunt-Boyer Mansion and its grounds. The Tank House was originally located south of the mansion but was moved to its current location in 1979 when the Mansion Square Development, which currently houses Zen Toro and Kaplan Educational Center, was built.
According to a city staff report, the Tank House was used as commercial space from 1979 until 1998, when it was condemned for being structurally unsound. It has not been used since.
The original proposal was to demolish the Tank House, but at a meeting on Nov. 27, the city council moved to negotiate an agreement that did not involve demolition. The Tank House will be moved again to a location where it can serve as a visitor information center. This motion was opposed by councilmembers Lamar Heystek and Stephen Souza.
Mayor Sue Greenwald has been a longtime supporter of the project, which she sees as important because it provides a unique touch to the city’s downtown.
“It’s been getting extremely hard for independent coffee shop owners to find locations downtown, particularly student-oriented, student-serving businesses,” Greenwald said. “That was another reason why [moving the Tank House] seemed worth the sacrifice to me.”
She said she supported the idea of “adaptive re-use” instead of demolition.
“Right now, the council’s inclination is to allow these types of things to be torn down and replaced with those big stucco buildings,” she said.
The Mishka’s project is an example of a recurring theme in decisions facing the Davis City Council: what to do about conflicts between redevelopment and historical landmarks. It has evolved into one of the larger issues in the current city council election.
“Adaptive re-use means that you take existing structures and adapt them to a new use,” said candidate Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald in an e-mail. “A good example of this type of project would be Bistro 33, which incorporates the historic city hall.”
She said this strategy is the most appropriate way to preserve historic resources while preserving economic vitality.
Rob Roy, also a challenger in this election, said in an e-mail he would rather see the Tank House refurbished, and he’s not opposed to moving it so that Mishka’s can expand.
“It is important to keep our locally-owned independent businesses going strong and not allow corporate gentrification to take over our town,” he said.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.