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As the Museum Market Plaza project continues to move forward we are increasingly concerned by the terms of the Museum Market Plaza Specific Plan that includes a private street through the site of the existing Town & Country Center (T&CC). This is especially true given that the City Council voted to make the nearby Andreas Road a two-way street, eliminating the need for another east-west connector from Indian Canyon Drive. In addition, when a road through the T&CC was proposed in the Specific Plan it was expected that a large hotel would be constructed on this block. Now that the hotel will be built on Block C on the west side of Palm Canyon Drive – and with the many other changes that have been made to the other blocks in the Specific Plan – reconsideration of the necessity of a road through the T&CC would be appropriate.
ADVOCACY UPDATE: June, 2012
As of June of 2011, the City and John Wessman announced that the revitalization plan for the Desert Fashion Plaza would not include a road through the Town & Country Center (T & CC).
However, we are concerned about the long-term plans for the T&CC that remain in the Downtown Specific Plan. Since 2004, the Palm Springs Modern Committee has been leading the fight to save the Town & Country Center. We will continue to do so until the property has been preserved and adapted for new uses.
Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the efforts of so many who worked so hard to reach this point.
To the courageous Palm Springs Planning Commission who put their reputation on the line in rejecting a flawed Development Agreement, to the board of PS ModCom who supported a very aggressive approach to this fight, to our stalwart warrior and executive director Nickie McLaughlin, to our fabulous and astute attorney Amy Minteer who provided the legal underpinnings of our strategy, to ModCom members and others who came and spoke at numerous public hearings, to the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation for their hard work, and to the many behind-the-scenes players who chose not to be public about their efforts but who were absolutely instrumental in the outcome.
But let’s keep our eyes on the prize, namely, the restoration and integration of the Town & Country Center into downtown’s revitalization. We still have much work to do. But this is a tremendous first step.
ADVOCACY UPDATE: June 2, 2011
On May 25, the Palm Springs Planning Commission rejected the proposed development agreement put forward by the City and John Wessman for the Fashion Plaza/Town & Country Center project!
However… City Council is nonetheless poised to approve the development agreement at their June 15 meeting. We urge all supporters to attend and demand that the politicians negotiate a fairer deal for Palm Springs!
Contact the City Council about this Development Agreement at 760-323-8299 or email@example.com.
Below are a few of the reasons for the Planning Commission’s decision to reject the badly flawed development agreement:
- Lack of adequate open space (only 2,300 square feet)
- Lack of traffic plan for the new grid of streets
- Objection to the loss of TOT (transient occupancy tax) for the proposed hotels
- Lack of careful thought in not considering making Indian Avenue and/or Palm Canyon Drive a two-way street
- 10-25 year duration of the agreement (!)
- Apparent lack of faith in the promises of developer Wessman
- And, the agreement’s willful dismissal of the Visioning Session results that incorporated the Town & Country Center into a revitalized downtown!!!
The above points, and MORE, are laid out in the Department of Planning Services’ memo, dated June 8.
We believe this decision sends a strong message to the City Council that the proposed development agreement is wrong for the City of Palm Springs and should be scrapped for a better plan that fulfills the wishes of the citizens for a downtown we can all be proud of.
ADVOCACY UPDATE: May 11, 2011
There is no inherent reason why the Town & Country Center (T&CC) must be tied to the future of the Fashion Plaza. In convincing key councilmembers of this position, PS ModCom is diligently working behind the scenes making the case that the T&CC should be decoupled from the new project because plowing a road through the historic property is not necessary for the project to succeed.
Right now the City and Wessman Development are working on a development agreement that will codify the current plans. It seems that a November ballot measure providing public financial support is needed for the project to move forward. PS ModCom is eager to publicly and financially support the ballot measure IF the Town & Country Center is removed from the project.
PS ModCom has been fighting for the preservation of the Town & Country Center since 2004 when it became threatened. In 2007, a rally at the site saw the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the California Preservation Foundation, and architect/historian Alan Hess publicly pronounce the tremendous significance of the T&CC and the need for its preservation and restoration.
ABOUT TOWN & COUNTRY CENTER, 1948
A. Quincy Jones and Paul R. Williams, Architects
The Town and Country Center, or “The Center” was designed by
renowned architects A. Quincy Jones and Paul R. Williams in 1947. The Center, designed in the Late Moderne architectural style, is comprised of three, two-story, flat-roofed buildings. Each building has street level storefronts on either Indian Canyon Drive or Palm Canyon
Pedestrian arcades located between the buildings lead to the dramatic focal point of this mixed-use development, a landscaped open-air central courtyard. This lovely patio area is surrounded by ground level retail shops that are sheltered by a curvaceous and sweeping pedestrian overhang. On the east side of the courtyard patio from an irregular stage-like podium ascends a wide and graceful stairway leading to the courtyard areas’ anchor tenant. Adjacent to the second floor landing and balcony, a large wood-sided planter box supported by a pylon juts out parallel to the stairway terminating above the landscape and patio area below. The opposite side of the balcony space was utilized by the apartment residents. A redwood egg crate style screen, typical of the Late Moderne style, provided division between public and private sections of the balcony. Apartment residents have a private stairway access to the units from Indian Canyon Drive.
The courtyard second floor anchor unit was initially occupied by the upscale Town and Country Restaurant that featured a beautiful Modern interior rich in wood finishes. Interior areas were further complemented by the extensive use of Eames-designed furnishings.
While the Center is much remembered historically for the Town and Country Restaurant, many tenants enjoyed great long term success as contributing components of the retail atmosphere, adding significantly to the overall downtown Palm Springs experience. Tenants varied widely. Retail components showcased the finer shops of the village while other units served the needs of the permanent community and visitors alike. Adding even more diversity is the second floor residential element of the development.
The Palm Canyon Drive fronted units of the Center long featured the Bank of America in the southernmost unit, with Beebe ladies fashions next door. Just to the north was Palm Springs Drug Co., which included Palm Springs Spirits and Tony and Marilyn’s Fountain Grill within. The French Bootery and George Weill’s Fashions framed the arcade leading to the courtyard.
The courtyard perimeter shops lured visitors to a variety of retail experiences: Kelley’s Furnishings, Jewels by Alchian, Village Flower Shop, Warren Imports, The Kings Quarters, Center Beauty Salon and the Mary Helen Teen Shop.
The offices located within the Center held such historically recognizable names as the Desert Sun, Palm Springs Villager Magazine, Palm Springs Guide, KDES Radio Broadcasting, Cameron Broadcasting, and the Southern Pacific Company. Even the respected architectural partnership of Wexler and Harrison had an office off the courtyard at one point.
An article appearing in the February, 1950 issue of Architectural Record states that in the Town and Country Restaurant’s first season, customers were so successfully drawn into the courtyard area and its surrounding shops that the property owners were attempting to accelerate the completion of the shopping center construction. Completion of the entire project was originally expected to take up to three years, following a careful construction schedule. Existing structures in various areas of the site were to be utilized and redeveloped into the new Town and Country Center. The areas existing tenants avoided even a brief interruption of business; they were allowed to remain in their untouched units until finished sections were available for them to relocate.
Documentation of the historical and architectural significance of the Town and Country Center dates from the time of its construction, to present day. Palm Springs Weekend, the important book of Palm Springs’ architectural history by Alan Hess and Andrew Danish (2001, Chronicle Books), states that three of the best examples of the Late Moderne were built in Palm Springs: Bullock’s (demolished), the Town and Country Center, and the Tennis Club.
The June 2004, Palm Springs Citywide Historic Resources Survey identifies the Town and Country Center to be among the most historically significant properties in Palm Springs. It concludes that the commercial complex appears to meet the level of significance necessary for individual listing in the National Register of Historic Places and the California Register of Historical Resources. The survey states that the complex is “a rare and excellent example of the late Moderne style” and that “the structure retains a good degree of integrity; the location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association appear to remain unchanged since the building was constructed”. Further, the survey sites that “because of the building’s visual quality, history, intact setting, and fair to high integrity, and as an outstanding example of commercial architecture in the late Moderne style, the building represents the overall commercial development of downtown Palm Springs during the post-war era and contributes to the mid-century modernist character so strongly identified with Palm Springs”.