Arcade Proposed as Landmark

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Ojai Historic Preservation Commission has recommended that the Ojai Arcade shopping center become a city historic landmark.

If approved, landmark status would increase restrictions and public review for any proposed alterations to the arcade structure.

The blocklong arcade facade was built in 1917 as a way of unifying a disparate group of shops in downtown Ojai.

A dominant architectural feature of the city, it was refurbished through a $1.6-million project completed last year, paid for with funds from the city and the 13 landlords who own shops attached to the multi-arched arcade structure.

A report delivered to the Ojai Redevelopment Commission last week by preservation commission Chairman Robert Smith said the arcade is one of 24 structures that warrant landmark status.

Buildings at the top of the priority list include the Ojai Post Office tower, the St. Thomas Aquinas chapel and the Ojai Women's Club building.

The city already has four historic landmarks: the former Nazarene Church at Aliso and Montgomery Streets; the Theodore Woolsey House, a bed and breakfast on Ojai Avenue; the Libbey House and the Ladd House on Foothill Road.

The report also asks the city to set a number of design restrictions for arcade stores, including requiring a uniform size for all hanging signs, requiring the wall color of all storefronts to be Navajo white, prohibiting curtains or shades in windows, restricting lighting design, and banning fluorescent colors from displays inside arcade stores.

Several arcade stores now have features that don't meet the proposed standards, the report indicated.

Smith, a college art professor who owns a home once owned by original arcade financier Edward Libbey, said nonconforming stores could be "grandfathered" in, with restrictions applying only to new tenants and store owners who request alteration permits.

Historic landmark status for the arcade is long overdue, Smith said.

"Civic values count at least as much as commercial values," he said.

"We need to make sure that no one does something that dominates the arcade."

The issue will be discussed at the Historic Preservation Commission meeting today at 7:30 p.m. at Ojai City Hall. Various city panels will review the report before a final recommendation is brought to the Ojai City Council, probably in January, Smith said.

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