Healdsburg leaders said this week they were happy to give a thumbs up for a two-story cured meats shop at 404 Center St., the site of the former Healdsburg Post Office that burned to the ground in August 2010.
"We think it's a great concept, and a great fit for the city," said winemaker and project developer Peter Seghesio, after getting a unanimous OK from Healdsburg City Council this week.
He said the two-story, would break ground in April 2013, with construction to be completed a year later.
"We're happy," Seghesio said of the approval decision. "We've been in a little bit of a holding pattern, and that allowed us to fine-tune the design."
Council members, affirming a similarly unanimous approval recommentation from the Healdsburg Planning Commission last month, made their ruling after Seghesio and his architect, Alan Cohen, showed a plan to increase available parking spaces from 16 already planned to 23 -- the minimum required under the city's code.
Seghesio said he would create the extra seven spaces by paving over a portion of the gravel lot at the at a cost of about $40,000. He said later that he probably could have waited a year until the city completed an expansion of its downtown parking exemption district, but "we didn't want to lose the momentum," Seghesio said.
The Healdsburg Meat Co. site, only about two blocks from is not currently within the downtown shopping district that is exempt from parking space requirements, but the city is planning to expand the exemption area in about a year.
"We could have waited but we chose to move forward," Seghesio said.
Currently, Seghesio is letting the city use the site rent-free to store its road construction equipment while
Seghesio declined to state the cost of the project. He said he and his wife Cathy had been concerned about the overall pricetag until his two sons reassured him that they were willing to help out.
"My kids Joey, 13, and Will, who's 9, offered to give me their savings from their 4-H pig sales," Seghesio said, with a chuckle. "They both agreed to invest in the project, and that got us over the hump."
Seghesio also noted that he is committed to preserving the aromatic rosemary bush at the corner of Center and North streets -- a favorite spice scavenging locale for local chefs.
"It's a tradition for our local chefs to come here, even when it was the old Post Office, to get their rosemary for cooking," Seghesio said. "We're going to keep it out front, even if we have to transplant it."
Another special feature of the project is Dr. John Henson, a meat professor at Fresno State University, whom Seghesio said he has put on a five-year retainer as a cured meats consultant. According to Seghesio, Henson has advised some of the most prominent and successful cured meat brands in the world.
"He's a meat scientist," Seghesio said. "We want to make sure every product we have in the shop qualifies for USDA certification."