The Solana Beach mixed-use Transit Station master plan project will eventually be the new town center for this growing Southern California beach city. The design was created in a series of public workshops and includes a rail station, a large parking garage, retail and restaurant space, low-cost senior housing, artist lofts and townhouse-style apartments. The rail station is now complete, and the remainder of the project will be built in phases over the coming years.
In a refreshing alternative to development-as-usual, the North County Transit District and the City of Solana Beach consolidated particular properties and interests into a common agenda. Even more courageously, the local residents were asked to define and "design" this politically controversial and complex project.
After a series of orientation workshops, the architects presented the participants with a blank piece of butcher paper. Working in small groups, the community and developers reached a creative consensus on the majority of programmatic items.
The groups expressed concerns about traffic, parking, and design. They wanted this project to become a new community focal point or town center. They stressed establishing a human scale and a comfortable relationship between existing commercial and residential areas. The development had to relate to the railroad tracks while mitigating noise and vibration. In addition, the design had to function with the tracks at grade as well as allow the tracks to be lowered 25' below grade in the future. Links with Highway 101, an adjacent park, the beach, and the remaining area had to be explored sensitively. The groups also wanted to mask the presence of an 880-space parking garage. A hierarchy was proposed that placed more public retail components near a busy intersection and quiet residential uses at the north end of the project.
High on the community's list of requests was a design that would be unique and particular to this beach community. The response was design imagery inspired by the World War II-era structures and greenhouse sheds still found throughout the area. The train station acknowledges the vaulted typology of its European origins, but responds more specifically to local traditions. Departing from its self-imposed height limit, the community requested a tower to connote the project’s civic importance. The rural-like park around the station is inspired by the nearby sandstone cliffs and beach access stairs.