Old Restaurant Building to be Razed in Next Few Weeks

Former location of Mills Restaurant on Redwood Boulevard needs to have the asbestos removed before wreckers can come in.

A shuttered restaurant site in downtown Novato will be razed later this month after all of the hazardous materials — including asbestos — are removed from the site, several sources said.

The building at started its life in the mid-1960s as a Denny's and ended as , which closed in December. The developer wants to fill in the vacant spot with a three-story commercial building that might have a coffee shop, some sort of eatery and a service-oriented retail store.

The hazardous materials removal is to start early next week and the demolition is scheduled for later this month, according to Deed Whitney, managing member of the development company NRP II.

Now that all the special districts in the area have been notified of the impending demolition, the first phase of the tear-down will involve asbestos removal and gutting the interior to salvage all recyclable materials. Robert Cubley, senior building inspector for the city of Novato, said a demolition permit has been issued as well as the asbestos removal permit from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. It'll be strange to see the building disappear, he added.

"I remember eating butterhorns at Denny's when I was 10 years old," said Cubley, who estimated the year as 1967.

The had hoped to conduct training drills in the building after the asbestos removal, but the developer said it wants to move forward quickly with the demolition, Deputy Chief Eric Nickel said. The fire district routinely checks for demolition permits issued and often asks for permission to conduct drills prior to the walls coming down.

"When times were good, we were getting one building a year or maybe two — even private homes," Nickel said. "But with the economy where it is, there's not a whole lot of building going on."

Cubley said all wood, concrete, metal and other reusable materials will be salvaged according to a green building ordinance passed a few years ago that limits the amount of refuse taken to the dump.

The design for the new three-tenant commercial building has gone through all the appropriate hoops (including a controversial ) and was approved by the city council on Jan. 24.

The property, located between and a , will be just a few feet from the future home of and several retail/restaurant spots at , which is taking shape now. The same architect, Crome Architecture of San Rafael, is designing both complexes.

Max Crome said his idea for the Mills spot is to create “a dynamic retail experience” an attractive bookend between the gas station and 999 Grant. He said he’d like to find a design style that relates to the styles incorporated into 999 Grant as well as the feel of Old Town Novato.

Do you have memories to share from your meals at 7330 Redwood? Did you enjoy some of the other restaurants that operated after Denny's left, such as Chez Pierre? Share your thoughts below.

Mark Burnham May 08, 2012 at 02:30 PM
valerie. the city announced on their website last week that the city hall project is reducing the current public parking supply from 30 to zero (check it its on their website). factor in the parking needs of 999 grant, the 300+ seat novato theatre, the mill restaurant development and trek winery.. and you are correct there is a huge problem. if this helps better clarify things for you.. these 4 projects alone which account for almost 50,000 sq feet of commercial development are providing a total of 49 parking spaces dedicated between them. the 20,000 sf city office project has a total of 60 spaces and ALL are dedicated to city employees (they actually don't even have enough parking for all of their anticipated 66 employees) and NONE available for city office visitors.
Worry May 08, 2012 at 02:53 PM
I'm all for good development in downtown. Hoping this project is done "right" and it ends up looking like it belongs and doesn't end up being just another little strip mall. The three commenters above are 100% correct that parking will be a huge problem, actually impossible, if city offices are built and these other huge commercial projects come online. The city has no answer for where the 1,000's of new visitors weekly will park when they visit the theatre, or dine at the new restaurants at 999 Grant, or visit the Circle Bank branch. The city has no answer for where the employees of each of these new developments, which will number well in excess of 100 at any given hour, will park. The city of Novato, the city council, and the city manager.. are concerned about one thing and one thing only.. spending millions and millions more than is necessary to build 20,000 sf of city office space... and providing a small parking garage for a portion of their employees and none of the minimal amount of visitors they expect daily. The city council and city manager should be held responsible two years from now when a complete and utter lack of parking (due to their lack of vision) cause visitors to avoid downtown and the turnstyle of businesses continues to plauge Grant Avenue.
Lloyd May 08, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Cindy makes a very valid point. The city has created a zone of "unwelcome". Between the NPD hiding behind every building for rolling stop signs and god forbid crossing the double yellow line to park and the already thin supply of available parking these new projects should guarantee that those few potential shoppers or restaurant goers, go elsewhere. What a nightmare!!
Susan Clark May 08, 2012 at 03:51 PM
I drove around for 12 -15 minutes trying to find a place to park last week. Next time I will lunch anywhere BUT downtown Novato as I had to eat fast to make it back to work on time! Also, remember Eucalyptus Ave and the terrible job they did at redesigning that road. It's the blind leading the blind and they don't seem to care about public input...they do the opposite!
Eileen Plunkett May 08, 2012 at 03:54 PM
We do not need more office space. I loved mills and ate there at least once a week. It was a lovely, clean place with excellent servers. I also ate at the previous restaurants, but none was as good as mills. The owner won't ever again see me and my friends there no matter what type eatery or retail stores or offices appear. Many from Los Robles park loved mills.
Novato Resident May 08, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Yep, the city council certainly seems to operate with blinders on... the behemoth Whole Foods project proved that to me years ago... and I've boycotted the place since it opened - despite easy parking there and all. Having the City offices downtown is crazy to me... not enough space and parking. Sort of weird that City Offices should be a detriment to the City, but that's what the case will be if they don't provide any parking to visitors, or even enough for their own employees... shouldn't they be out on the Redwood corridor where there's more space and more need of improvements??? The parking issue does need to be addressed if the Downtown is to thrive. Perhaps the old Pini property should be turned into a parking garage to deal with the downtown parking shortage? I also don't like hearing the same architect who is doing the Circle Bank project is on board for this one too... my fear being that the buildings will start looking too homogenous... and big. The "supersize" buildings the city council keeps approving are inappropriate for this small town.
Novato Resident May 08, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Okay... I see another possible issue here. The article shows a drawing of the proposed new building with the caption "The design of the proposed building at the site of the old Denny's and Mills restaurants was approved at the Novato Design Review meeting on Dec. 7, 2011" and shows a single story building... but then later the article reads "The developer wants to fill in the vacant spot with a three-story commercial building that might have a coffee shop, some sort of eatery and a service-oriented retail store." So is this going to be a single story building or a three-story building? Is this another case of bait and switch... as on the WF project??
Brent Ainsworth (Editor) May 08, 2012 at 04:23 PM
OK, here's a question for you: Would you want a large two-story (three-story?) parking structure to be built somewhere downtown? Where would it go? With what money?
Worry May 08, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Good question Brent. Here is the easy answer for you sir. Amazingly you can find the answer for yourself in the city's own general plan and downtown specific plan! Both of these documents strongly recommend a 2 or 3 story parking facility on the site where the city is now planning on building city offices. These very same documents state that revitalizing Grant by providing ample, convienent, centrally located parking downtown as a main goal. As far as where would the money come from? The funds would come from the same funds (the $15 mill+) the city is planning on using to build these offices. Offices that will generate zero in tax revenue to help the city with their severely underfunded budget. Offices that the city council has decided are necessary despite multiple options available to them in the $4-6 mil dollar range. Fyi.. a 3 story 175 car parking garage would cost approximately $3-4 mil dollars. A parking facility would help accomodate & ENCOURAGE 1,000's of more daily visitors downtown to the new theatre, the new restaurants, & the existing retail. This parking facility would be open 7 days per week & help generate tax revenue - 6am until midnight. City offices generate ZERO tax revenue, are closed every night & closed 3 days per week. So the real question should be.."What benefit do city offices bring to downtown Novato when they remove all public parking, go against the city's own stated general plans, & cost millions more than is necessary?"
Bill May 08, 2012 at 05:27 PM
The city offices are actually open five days a week. There are open to the public four days and on Friday's they are open to the city employees only. This of course could change in the future.
Tina McMillan May 08, 2012 at 05:36 PM
The real issue is why we turned away from including a parking garage. In a recent city planning meeting regarding the downtown offices the assistant city attorney tried to stop the commission from commenting on the current plan other than to rubber stamp it. It took a second meeting of the commission to continue the dialogue. Jay Strauss discussed the role and responsibilities of the commission while Dennis Cooper and Robert Jordan spoke out against the current plan due to cost and the lack of downtown parking. Only Bob Brown was present at the second meeting, not the assistant city attorney. Brown is a recent hire and has stayed clear of taking a position on this issue. The last time the planning commission asked about it was in June of 2011 at which time they were put off of discussing the building, the insufficient parking and the cost. More than half of the commission, with Tom James being replaced by Gary Butler, appears to hold to the idea that the council alone calls all the shots on this project. The level of public disenfranchisement is beyond calculation. The only way the council was able to navigate this project was by pulling the funding out of the old RDA. Without that money it would have gone to a vote according to measure D. Anyone that hasn't written to the council please consider writing now. There is still time to turn this around by putting in a garage, rehabbing the community center and buying an existing commercial office building for city staff.
Worry May 08, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Partly true Bill. Offices are closed every Friday to the public and staffed every other Friday by staff. So every other Friday, I believe, no one is there. Either way the point is the city has "sold" Novato that this building is integral to revitalizing Novato. It is the farthest thing from the truth. Staff will be there on a regular basis Mon-Thurs from 9-5pm. Their visitor studies are being amended as we speak to indicate a total number of daily visitors to be less than 60. 60 over a 9 hour period. And do not be mistaken that city offices are dark EVERY single night after 6pm and EVERY Saturday and Sunday... every other Friday (if you wish). The offices result in a net loss of city parking (amazing but true) and a TOTAL loss of the 30 public spaces during the day, night, and weekend. Basically downtown is getting a few employees, almost zero visitors, and eliminating all public parking. This office plan flies in the face of common sense, financial prudence, and will ensure downtown Novato becomes an afterthought to those wishing to park and see better businesses take root on Grant Ave.
Mr. Novato May 08, 2012 at 06:31 PM
This is a poor location for a coffee shop.
Mr. Novato May 08, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Among other disadvantages, this location will never accommodate a profitable business. Expected high rents in the area coupled with the limited day time population of Novato, prohibit a sustainable and feasible business plan. It is hard to believe that any prudent and intelligent business owner would choose this weak location to venture in such an uncertain economy; given there are so many better places to venture with much greater return on investment rather then sleepy Novato. As a result sadly we will see much turn-over in this area as each business opens and later closes because of the many disadvantages of this location. As a result, I would find it hard to believe that any sound coffee shop would even contemplate such a poor location for such type of business.
Mr. Novato May 08, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Among other disadvantages, this location will never accommodate a profitable business. Expected high rents in the area coupled with the limited day time population of Novato, prohibit a sustainable and feasible business plan. It is hard to believe that any prudent and intelligent business owner would choose this weak location to venture in such an uncertain economy; given there are so many better places to venture with much greater return on investment rather then sleepy Novato. As a result, sadly, we will see much turn-over in this area as each business opens and later closes because of the many disadvantages of this location. As a result, I would find it hard to believe that any sound coffee shop would even contemplate such a poor location for such type of business.
SamS May 08, 2012 at 07:05 PM
It will not be a 3 story building.. that is not true. It will be one story with high ceilings....
Mr. Novato May 08, 2012 at 07:07 PM
Looking at the excessive historical data showing repeated and multiple business failures at this specific location factually solidifies my analysis.
SamS May 08, 2012 at 07:14 PM
the site currently has around 70 spaces ( in the lot and on Cain) of which about 35 or so are public spaces. The new building will also have about 70 spaces ( in the lot and on Cain).. It is not true that the current public parking of 30 spaces goes down to zero as Mr. Burnham states. It is also NOT true that the four projects provide only 49 spaces. the City hall site provides 70, the Mills site provides around 25-30, the 999 Grant site provides 25-30.. The only sites not providing any of it own parking needs when they are built is Trek Winery and the theater. So they are going to open a 300 street Theater and they are not providing one single parking space???..... Why is your argument that the City, and the mills site and 999 Grant have to provide all the parking? They are providing around 125 to 135 spaces... What is the Theater providing? Zero parking places......
SamS May 08, 2012 at 07:19 PM
They are NOT removing all public parking!!!! the start with about 70 spaces ( which are there now) , of which about 35 are public. When they build the offices they end up with about 70 spaces, with about 30-35 that are public....... How does that equate to the are removing all the public parking?
Worry May 08, 2012 at 07:52 PM
This is addressed to "Sam" who states "they are not removing public parking". Sam below I provide the link from the city's own website which addresses your question. It is below.. I am not sure if you read it or pehaps you misread it. Either way it is below and here is what it states..I will summarize: There are currently 70 parking spaces on this site. 40 of which are public. The city hall plan will leave this very same site with a total of 64 spaces (56 in the new parking lot/garage & a few more on the street). That is a net loss of 6 spaces. Furthermore, the city states they will have 60 employees on site in the very near future. Additionally, their visitor estimates (which are currently being revised and will be apparently be less than 60 per day) will also require parking. So not only will EVERY SINGLE SPACE on this site be fully allocated to city employee parking (not even enough for them) but city office visitors.. a miniscule amount of people.. will be forced to park on Grant in order to do their business at city offices.. further reducing the parking supply. If you believe that parking will be made available for the public on this site during night time hours or on the 3 days they are closed you'd be wrong. The police will be utilizing this for their vehicles & the city will be parking their fleet there. What say you Sam? Here is the link: http://www.cityofnovato.org/Index.aspx?page=1534
Mark Burnham May 08, 2012 at 08:13 PM
sam, before you post here please have your facts straight. 999 grant has 21 spaces, the mill project has 28 spaces. that totals 49 as i stated before. the new city hall plan provides 56 total onsite spaces for the 60 anticipated employees they plan to move in. the building is built to accomodate a total of 71 employees. additionally the city will have visitors. where will they park? sam you misinterpret my argument as me stating that 999 grant and mills should provide more parking. that is not my position. they are providing their fair share. my position is that the city is reducing the parking supply for the public when the downtown specific plan states it is their duty to provide more parking to further revitalize downtown novato. sam.. do you not think it is irresponsible of the city to eliminate all the public parking on this site, infringe on the limited public parking on city streets, and provide no additional parking, as the city's downtown specific plan states is their reccomendation, to encourage retail grown and tax revenues? why is your position so irresponsible in light of the facts?
janet montgomery May 08, 2012 at 09:08 PM
How about another boring bank..
SamS May 08, 2012 at 09:40 PM
City employees will not be allowed to park in the public spaces on the site.. I hear the city is looking for alternative places for the employees to park 1-3 blocks away and NOT on Grant. so there will be 35-40 PUBLIC spaces to be used by visitors to the city building.... while there may be 60 visitors a day (which I doubt), they wont all be coming at once.....
SamS May 08, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Mr. Burnham - the city is not eliminating the public parking. City employees will not be allowed to park in the public spaces.. so the same number of public spaces that are there today, will be there after the project is done. My parking numbers were approximate, that is why I said "about 25-30 spaces" - I was not being exact. the difference between current parking spaces and the spaces once the project is done is a difference of "about" 10- or 20 spaces..... not enough to get in a huff over if you ask me.... I find it interesting that neither you or "Mr. Worry" replied about the Theater and their parking demands once they open.... They will bring 300 people downtown - AND they provide ZERO parking... what say you to that Mr. Worry? Mr. Burnham?
Cindy May 09, 2012 at 02:21 PM
None of your comments have convinced me that anything will change regarding the downtown parking issue. It really is a shame because Novato has chased away many people and a lot of dollars because of parking. This is a basic planning issue, this is the nuts and bolts of a thriving downtown. Parking garage at the Pini site sounds great, easy money for the owner, just look at the people who own them in San Francisco.
Worry May 09, 2012 at 02:37 PM
the city of novato issued the attached "downtown parking facts" sheet. read it for yourself so you get the "facts' directly from the city. the report states VERY clearly the following: 1. currently there are 70 spaces, 30 of which are allocated for public parking 2. there will be a net loss of parking from the 70 currently available now to 64 total available after construction 3. the report states absolutely NOTHING about any of the reduced 64 spaces being allocated for public parking. 4. the city plans on moving 60 employees to this office. they all need parking. 5. the current walker study indicates 23 people visiting city offices during peak hours. they all need parking. 6. during non peak office hours the city will require between 61-70 spaces 7. during peak office hours the city will require 83 spaces 8. the city is providing 56 spaces total on this site with another 8 on machin & cain here is the "downtown parking facts" report. click the link.. its straightforward and DIRECTLY from the city to eliminate any confusion. http://www.cityofnovato.org/Index.aspx?page=1534
Henry Markwart May 09, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Get rid of the McDonalds, and that wretched motel on Front Street too.
Christine May 09, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Maybe the new city offices should have been built across from Wyndover and the new senior housing should be built where the filthy Mission Lodge stands. That would leave way for the oringinal parking plans behind Finns.
diane May 10, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Bummer! We ate at Mills on a regular basis.
Craig Belfor May 12, 2012 at 04:35 AM
I still say we do eminent domain on the Novato Square shopping center that the owner is letting slide downward. We could put the City Hall offices in the old Delanos building, fix up the other spots for rental income, and get more bang for the buck than the new Taj Mahal the girls on the council voted for themselves, while solving a huge parking problem. The new offices would be closer than the present offices to downtown, and local business would thrive, while rejuvenating the that whole side of town.


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