Mishkas Cafe Project: Evaluating Historic Preservation with Commercial Development

The latest project that appears once again to threaten the historic nature of our downtown is the proposed redevelopment of a City-owned parcel at 604 Second Street between the historic Dresbach-Hunt-Boyer Mansion and the Varsity Theater. Currently, the site contains the Tank House and orange trees that contribute to the historic resources of the mansion.

The Mansion was built in 1874 and the Tank House was constructed sometime between 1874 and 1888. It was built to provide water to the Mansion and the grounds. It was originally located behind the house but was moved to its present location in 1979 to accommodate the construction of commercial development south of the mansion.

The Mishkas Cafe project would seek to demolish the Tank house, remove ten of the orange trees and then construct a three-story commercial building with the new Mishkas Cafe on the ground floor and two stories of office space above.

According to the Draft Environmental Impact report, the Mishkas Cafe project features competing goals and objectives. On one hand, the city is committed to commercial revitalization of the Downtown Commercial Core through the work of the Redevelopment Agency. On the other hand, the site being proposed contributes to the historic setting on the Hunt-Boyer Mansion.

The question here is whether one can achieve the proper balance between economic and commercial redevelopment and historic preservation.

The project proposal would have a number of significant and unavoidable impacts. First it would significantly impact the immediate visual context of the location. Second the removal of the 10 organge trees which are eligible for listing as Landmark trees represents a significant impact.

Third, “The Proposed Project would demolish the Tank House and 10 historic orange trees, contributing resources to the listed Dresbach-Hunt-Boyer Mansion, and would trench for foundation and utilities for a new three-story building. This would be a significant impact.”

Fourth, the demolition of the Tank House would remove a listed contributing structure to a National Register property, again a significant impact. Also fifth, the height of the building would reduce the open space around the Mansion and again be a significant impact on the historic setting. Sixth, the trenching for the foundation and utilities for a three-story building would have a significant impact on loss of cultural resources.

While the project proposal contains a number of significant and unavoidable impacts, there are six project alternatives. These range from no project, to reducing the height to two stories to moving and rehabilitating rather than demolishing the Tank House.

According to the EIR, the sixth alternative which involves disassemble/ reassemble and rehabilitating the Tank House in its present location for commercial or public use–such as as a visitor or public information kiosk. There would be no significant environmental issues associated with this alternative. However, while it would meet historic preservation goals, it would not meet Downtown Core Commercial goals and policies including the creation of an economically viable project that generates direct fiscal benefit to the city.

According to one source, a two story building would be acceptable to the developer. As mentioned above, the tank house was originally moved from behind the mansion to the east side of the property. Moving the pump house to the west side of the property would be preserve it and be viable in terms of historic preservation. In fact, it would give it more visibility as it would move it closer to the street rather than between the Mansion and the Varsity Theater.

There is great concern about the downtown area’s economic viability. We have recently lost or are losing a number of long-time businesses. Running an independent coffee shop is the type of economic activity I would like to encourage in the downtown area rather than discourage as long as key aspects of historic preservation can be maintained. Moreover, having a coffee shop next to the theater seems like a good use of coordinate commerce.

Therefore, so long as the pump house is in some way preserved, I would like to see an alternative aspect of this project go forward.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts

37 thoughts on “Mishkas Cafe Project: Evaluating Historic Preservation with Commercial Development”

  1. davisite

    Excellent presentation of the options. The compromise position of a two story building and moving the Tankhouse addresses almost all of the real concerns of those against development here… another example of how Davis’ vigorous open debate and citizen involvement appear to have generated the best possible alternative.

  2. davisite

    Excellent presentation of the options. The compromise position of a two story building and moving the Tankhouse addresses almost all of the real concerns of those against development here… another example of how Davis’ vigorous open debate and citizen involvement appear to have generated the best possible alternative.

  3. davisite

    Excellent presentation of the options. The compromise position of a two story building and moving the Tankhouse addresses almost all of the real concerns of those against development here… another example of how Davis’ vigorous open debate and citizen involvement appear to have generated the best possible alternative.

  4. davisite

    Excellent presentation of the options. The compromise position of a two story building and moving the Tankhouse addresses almost all of the real concerns of those against development here… another example of how Davis’ vigorous open debate and citizen involvement appear to have generated the best possible alternative.

  5. MT

    I couldn’t stand to eat any of several oranges I picked up from one of those Tank House trees on one or two occasions. Are they ever good? Have they gone bad? Is it fixable? If so, isn’t this a waste of oranges?

    I agree it would be nice to retain and restore while developing. Maybe put back something architecturally alluding to the now absent tank as part of a mezzanine, with something like the original windmill as part of some green engineering, and some glass for greenhousing the oranges–or some fitter replacement horticulture/ecology. No need to sentimentalize agricultural trees gone bad, especially as they’re no beauties and produce bushels of mushy orange ant-attracting litter. Maybe get some UCD engineers in on it?

  6. MT

    I couldn’t stand to eat any of several oranges I picked up from one of those Tank House trees on one or two occasions. Are they ever good? Have they gone bad? Is it fixable? If so, isn’t this a waste of oranges?

    I agree it would be nice to retain and restore while developing. Maybe put back something architecturally alluding to the now absent tank as part of a mezzanine, with something like the original windmill as part of some green engineering, and some glass for greenhousing the oranges–or some fitter replacement horticulture/ecology. No need to sentimentalize agricultural trees gone bad, especially as they’re no beauties and produce bushels of mushy orange ant-attracting litter. Maybe get some UCD engineers in on it?

  7. MT

    I couldn’t stand to eat any of several oranges I picked up from one of those Tank House trees on one or two occasions. Are they ever good? Have they gone bad? Is it fixable? If so, isn’t this a waste of oranges?

    I agree it would be nice to retain and restore while developing. Maybe put back something architecturally alluding to the now absent tank as part of a mezzanine, with something like the original windmill as part of some green engineering, and some glass for greenhousing the oranges–or some fitter replacement horticulture/ecology. No need to sentimentalize agricultural trees gone bad, especially as they’re no beauties and produce bushels of mushy orange ant-attracting litter. Maybe get some UCD engineers in on it?

  8. MT

    I couldn’t stand to eat any of several oranges I picked up from one of those Tank House trees on one or two occasions. Are they ever good? Have they gone bad? Is it fixable? If so, isn’t this a waste of oranges?

    I agree it would be nice to retain and restore while developing. Maybe put back something architecturally alluding to the now absent tank as part of a mezzanine, with something like the original windmill as part of some green engineering, and some glass for greenhousing the oranges–or some fitter replacement horticulture/ecology. No need to sentimentalize agricultural trees gone bad, especially as they’re no beauties and produce bushels of mushy orange ant-attracting litter. Maybe get some UCD engineers in on it?

  9. Anonymous

    The Davis Wiki has articles on the mansion and the Tank House, which I bet only a small proportion of Davis residents actually know by name, and I’da thunk a blog like this would want to link to that democratic resource at every opportunity.

  10. Anonymous

    The Davis Wiki has articles on the mansion and the Tank House, which I bet only a small proportion of Davis residents actually know by name, and I’da thunk a blog like this would want to link to that democratic resource at every opportunity.

  11. Anonymous

    The Davis Wiki has articles on the mansion and the Tank House, which I bet only a small proportion of Davis residents actually know by name, and I’da thunk a blog like this would want to link to that democratic resource at every opportunity.

  12. Anonymous

    The Davis Wiki has articles on the mansion and the Tank House, which I bet only a small proportion of Davis residents actually know by name, and I’da thunk a blog like this would want to link to that democratic resource at every opportunity.

  13. Anonymous

    Back in 1995, for a few interesting months an acquaintance of mine owned and operated a cafe under the branches of the orange trees in that location. All open air, except for a small kitchen in the tank house. He served coffee, pastries, soups, hors d’ouerves, Italian sodas, a class operation. Even showed movies and slide shows on the big white wall of the Varsity Theatre.
    He had a lease from the city government, and after a year it somehow got reneged on and he was forced out by too-high rent on the space.
    But, that was a really great idea he had, and very popular. Ten or twelve tables always full. A great idea because it utilized the space profitably, provided a great addition to Davis downtown street life, and imposed merely an unobstrusive “footprint,” historically/environmentally speaking.
    A really unique Davis nightspot.
    During the day, except for the tables and chairs, you’d never know it could be a bustling cafe at night–all the kitchen equipment, etc. was stored in the tank house.
    Bring back a cafe along these lines and the aesthetic effect on downtown would be fairly benign while being good for doing and attracting business.
    –Brian Kenyon.

  14. Anonymous

    Back in 1995, for a few interesting months an acquaintance of mine owned and operated a cafe under the branches of the orange trees in that location. All open air, except for a small kitchen in the tank house. He served coffee, pastries, soups, hors d’ouerves, Italian sodas, a class operation. Even showed movies and slide shows on the big white wall of the Varsity Theatre.
    He had a lease from the city government, and after a year it somehow got reneged on and he was forced out by too-high rent on the space.
    But, that was a really great idea he had, and very popular. Ten or twelve tables always full. A great idea because it utilized the space profitably, provided a great addition to Davis downtown street life, and imposed merely an unobstrusive “footprint,” historically/environmentally speaking.
    A really unique Davis nightspot.
    During the day, except for the tables and chairs, you’d never know it could be a bustling cafe at night–all the kitchen equipment, etc. was stored in the tank house.
    Bring back a cafe along these lines and the aesthetic effect on downtown would be fairly benign while being good for doing and attracting business.
    –Brian Kenyon.

  15. Anonymous

    Back in 1995, for a few interesting months an acquaintance of mine owned and operated a cafe under the branches of the orange trees in that location. All open air, except for a small kitchen in the tank house. He served coffee, pastries, soups, hors d’ouerves, Italian sodas, a class operation. Even showed movies and slide shows on the big white wall of the Varsity Theatre.
    He had a lease from the city government, and after a year it somehow got reneged on and he was forced out by too-high rent on the space.
    But, that was a really great idea he had, and very popular. Ten or twelve tables always full. A great idea because it utilized the space profitably, provided a great addition to Davis downtown street life, and imposed merely an unobstrusive “footprint,” historically/environmentally speaking.
    A really unique Davis nightspot.
    During the day, except for the tables and chairs, you’d never know it could be a bustling cafe at night–all the kitchen equipment, etc. was stored in the tank house.
    Bring back a cafe along these lines and the aesthetic effect on downtown would be fairly benign while being good for doing and attracting business.
    –Brian Kenyon.

  16. Anonymous

    Back in 1995, for a few interesting months an acquaintance of mine owned and operated a cafe under the branches of the orange trees in that location. All open air, except for a small kitchen in the tank house. He served coffee, pastries, soups, hors d’ouerves, Italian sodas, a class operation. Even showed movies and slide shows on the big white wall of the Varsity Theatre.
    He had a lease from the city government, and after a year it somehow got reneged on and he was forced out by too-high rent on the space.
    But, that was a really great idea he had, and very popular. Ten or twelve tables always full. A great idea because it utilized the space profitably, provided a great addition to Davis downtown street life, and imposed merely an unobstrusive “footprint,” historically/environmentally speaking.
    A really unique Davis nightspot.
    During the day, except for the tables and chairs, you’d never know it could be a bustling cafe at night–all the kitchen equipment, etc. was stored in the tank house.
    Bring back a cafe along these lines and the aesthetic effect on downtown would be fairly benign while being good for doing and attracting business.
    –Brian Kenyon.

  17. 無名 - wu ming

    that was a fantastic cafe, brian. i’ve been bemoaning its loss ever since they went bust.

    this is the first i heard about the office space on the top 2 floors. the need for a 3 story cafe always struck me as a bit weird.

    a less ambitious project that leaves most of the trees and cool outdoor seating space intact, and that incorporates the tankhouse into the building quirkily, would be ideal IMO. i’m less interested in more office space, but a lovely little outdoor cafe on those cool summer nights was and would be fantastic.

  18. 無名 - wu ming

    that was a fantastic cafe, brian. i’ve been bemoaning its loss ever since they went bust.

    this is the first i heard about the office space on the top 2 floors. the need for a 3 story cafe always struck me as a bit weird.

    a less ambitious project that leaves most of the trees and cool outdoor seating space intact, and that incorporates the tankhouse into the building quirkily, would be ideal IMO. i’m less interested in more office space, but a lovely little outdoor cafe on those cool summer nights was and would be fantastic.

  19. 無名 - wu ming

    that was a fantastic cafe, brian. i’ve been bemoaning its loss ever since they went bust.

    this is the first i heard about the office space on the top 2 floors. the need for a 3 story cafe always struck me as a bit weird.

    a less ambitious project that leaves most of the trees and cool outdoor seating space intact, and that incorporates the tankhouse into the building quirkily, would be ideal IMO. i’m less interested in more office space, but a lovely little outdoor cafe on those cool summer nights was and would be fantastic.

  20. 無名 - wu ming

    that was a fantastic cafe, brian. i’ve been bemoaning its loss ever since they went bust.

    this is the first i heard about the office space on the top 2 floors. the need for a 3 story cafe always struck me as a bit weird.

    a less ambitious project that leaves most of the trees and cool outdoor seating space intact, and that incorporates the tankhouse into the building quirkily, would be ideal IMO. i’m less interested in more office space, but a lovely little outdoor cafe on those cool summer nights was and would be fantastic.

  21. Don Shor

    ” Orange trees growing around town and in yards often have inedible fruit… SOUR. Don probably can jump in here and explain.”
    Insufficient sunlight, watering too often, lack of fertilizer (especially micronutrients), plus the fact that the fruit hangs on the tree long after the flavor is at the right balance of acid and sugar.

  22. Don Shor

    ” Orange trees growing around town and in yards often have inedible fruit… SOUR. Don probably can jump in here and explain.”
    Insufficient sunlight, watering too often, lack of fertilizer (especially micronutrients), plus the fact that the fruit hangs on the tree long after the flavor is at the right balance of acid and sugar.

  23. Don Shor

    ” Orange trees growing around town and in yards often have inedible fruit… SOUR. Don probably can jump in here and explain.”
    Insufficient sunlight, watering too often, lack of fertilizer (especially micronutrients), plus the fact that the fruit hangs on the tree long after the flavor is at the right balance of acid and sugar.

  24. Don Shor

    ” Orange trees growing around town and in yards often have inedible fruit… SOUR. Don probably can jump in here and explain.”
    Insufficient sunlight, watering too often, lack of fertilizer (especially micronutrients), plus the fact that the fruit hangs on the tree long after the flavor is at the right balance of acid and sugar.

  25. Anonymous

    It would strike me as very strange if permission is given to knock down the tank house and orange trees and build a three-story office block, but NOT to lower the windows on the Anderson building…

  26. Anonymous

    It would strike me as very strange if permission is given to knock down the tank house and orange trees and build a three-story office block, but NOT to lower the windows on the Anderson building…

  27. Anonymous

    It would strike me as very strange if permission is given to knock down the tank house and orange trees and build a three-story office block, but NOT to lower the windows on the Anderson building…

  28. Anonymous

    It would strike me as very strange if permission is given to knock down the tank house and orange trees and build a three-story office block, but NOT to lower the windows on the Anderson building…

  29. Anonymous

    I took a good long look at the Tankhouse today… historic monument?
    .. more a tapering boxy eyesore siting next to an elegant historic/commercial building. ….move it or demolish it as it adds nothing desirable or attractive to the location…

  30. Anonymous

    I took a good long look at the Tankhouse today… historic monument?
    .. more a tapering boxy eyesore siting next to an elegant historic/commercial building. ….move it or demolish it as it adds nothing desirable or attractive to the location…

  31. Anonymous

    I took a good long look at the Tankhouse today… historic monument?
    .. more a tapering boxy eyesore siting next to an elegant historic/commercial building. ….move it or demolish it as it adds nothing desirable or attractive to the location…

  32. Anonymous

    I took a good long look at the Tankhouse today… historic monument?
    .. more a tapering boxy eyesore siting next to an elegant historic/commercial building. ….move it or demolish it as it adds nothing desirable or attractive to the location…

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for