Firm to pay homage to original Guasti Villa
Redeveloping the Guasti Villa will be a tricky undertaking for development firm Oliver McMillan, which purchased the 49 acres in June 2006 for $35million.. The historic district, once home to a thriving winery town, has been a source of pride for the region... Its stone, Tuscan-style architecture still awes visitors.. So it's not as if Oliver McMillan were developing on virgin land.
"This was a working town," said David Bouquillon, development director for the San Diego-based firm.. "We're not trying to recreate the winery.. We're trying to recreate a working town."
The original town of Guasti was founded by Italian immigrant Secondo Guasti in 1904 and grew, with the winery's employees and their families, around what became the largest vineyard and winery operation in the world.. Today, giant trees on the site date back more than a century, and the Guasti mansion serves as a historic centerpiece and home to the eatery and catering company, Saffron.
Joseph Filippi Winery Tasting Room now operates from old, ivy-coated buildings. Nearby stands the town's original firehouse and historic post office... Bouquillon said 175,000 square feet of historic buildings will be integrated into the project, which includes six office buildings, retail, executive-level residential units, two hotels, and restaurants and entertainment venues.
The historic trees and railroad tracks will stay, and future buildings will be woven in with the old in a contemporary, but complementary design, Bouquillon said. "It's really nice to pay homage to the existing architecture, not to recreate a series of old buildings," he said.. "So, we won't be using rubble walls but maybe stone or concrete, and an earthy palate."
Bouquillon likened his vision for Guasti to European cities built over time where the old coexists with the new.. But the not-so-old tin and brick structures presently being vacated by their former tenants don't fit into that vision and are slated for demolition in September.. "Except for a few, the tenants here haven't been in the business of restaurants and entertainment," he said. "This was a light-industrial site, and it's not appropriate to have a used tire dealer next to a four-star hotel."
Oliver McMillan will own a boutique hotel - complete with spa, bar and restaurant - based in the Guasti mansion, Bouquillon said.. Saffron will stay a bit longer than the rest of the former tenants due to prior event commitments, he said.
Guasti Cafe will be gone by September, and J Filippi Winery Tasting Room will stay through the holidays, Bouquillon said, adding that the winery may be invited back to the new Guasti.. While he could not yet disclose who will be future tenants, Bouquillon said that when the project is complete in fall 2009, it will be a high profile 18-hour-a-day destination.
"We looked at Victoria Gardens and the Mills," he said. "And our strategy was to separate ourselves from everything else out there."... Bouquillon said he sees an upscale clientele patronizing Guasti for attractions such as martini and wine bars, art houses, chef-driven restaurants, and music and comedy clubs.. And some of the district's future customers may be built into the project, too.
Awaiting city approval is a series of brownstone and townhouses at the east end of the site on Pepper Tree Lane, where tiny, tattered houses that once sheltered Guasti's vineyard workers have long been abandoned.. The re-creation of one of the oldest properties in the region is special in both its thrill and its challenge, Bouquillon said.
It is, after all, the making of a brand new Historic Guasti District.. And if they recreate Guasti village like other developers did to the old Virginia Dare Winery on Foothill and Haven in Cucamonga, then they will have achieved what all of us, old timers, and new residents would like to see. A rebuilt Guasti we can all be proud of.
Here are some of the plans for the new Guasti Village:
- Office building: 250,000 square feet of office space
- Medical building: 75,000 square feet of offices and services
- Hospital: 200,000 square feet of emergency room service
- Hotels: Embassy Suites
- Auto dealership: Mercedes Benz auto dealership