A former Wonder Bread bakery site in downtown Ventura whose heavenly aromas used to greet early morning surfers as they headed to the tip of California Street to catch one of the longest rideable waves on the West Coast in the 1960’s and 1970’s, has been sold to a local investment group that plans to construct 24 multi-family units on what had become a narrow blacktop parking lot, Colliers International has reported.

Located at 72 W. Santa Clara Street, the building that once housed the bakery was razed long ago to make way for the parking lot that was then leased for a nominal sum until the owner, United American Properties Inc. of Orange County, could decide what course of action to take with the nearly half-acre site, according to Colliers’ Jesse Munoz, who represented both the buyer and seller of the property.

Now that the recession has faded from memory, city leaders were eager to see if they could re-ignite developer interest in their Downtown Specific Plan by convincing property owners to either develop or sell their properties to developers, he noted. The buyer was Moeller Development Company LLC, a joint-venture of Dansk Investment Group and The Daly Group, all based in Ventura County.

“City officials decided that they needed to address the shortage of housing that nearly every small municipality is facing in the wake of six straight years of recession and weak recovery,” said Munoz. “While 24 units do not a recovery make, it is another sign that investors are ready to jump back into well-located residential properties for the right price.”

More important than the sale price of $1,059,000, according to Munoz, was the fact that some 15 offers for the property were received, demonstrating the pent-up demand among residential home builders who believe land prices have dropped, in certain areas, low enough to permit them to make a fair return on their investments.

The fact that Ventura marks the halfway point between two of the world’s most-prized coastal enclaves of wealth and celebrity – Malibu and Santa Barbara – also shows the stark contrast between new housing opportunities even when separated by just an hour’s drive one way or the other.

“While developers can afford to build 24 units in this central Ventura location, it would be a far different story in either Malibu or Montecito in Santa Barbara,” said Munoz. “It serves as a great object lesson. Land prices dictate the amount and type of housing available in California. What is possible in Ventura is not in places where land values are much higher and building limitations more restrictive – like Malibu and Montecito.”

But in Ventura, after all offers were submitted, the nearly fully entitled property was sold to a local joint-venture group, which has a past record of successful building in the coastal city. It took just 120 days to close escrow. The fact that the project sits in the shadow of the city’s historic downtown core, also was a factor in choosing the buyer-developer.

According to Munoz, the local developer had a prior history with the citys and understands how this project and a possible adjacent land opportunity that has not yet been put on the market, could neatly fit within the municipality’s Downtown Specific Plan.

“There won’t be any big surprises with this builder,” said Munoz. “The joint-venture partners have both worked with the city before, and the city has already approved the site as a low-density, multi-family site. There will be no Taj Mahals going up in Ventura anytime soon.”

In keeping with the heavily early California Mission-influenced architecture of Ventura, plans call for a large infusion of wood-and-plaster design accents. Overall, the project will feature three levels of housing units over ground-level parking designed to fit with the historic Mission sensibilities of the city.

Additionally, the site is near the intersection of venerable Highway 101, or the Ventura Freeway, the state’s main north-south coastal route, and Highway 26, or the Santa Paula Freeway, which juts inland from Ventura, bisecting some of the richest agricultural land in the region before connecting with Interstate 5 near Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita.

It also is in close proximity to employment, business and retail centers that residents can access by walking, driving or biking. The recreational lure of the beach is one block south and west of the Ventura County Fairgrounds. A paved beach walk connects local hotels, businesses and restaurants to the site, as well, Munoz added.