Mountain Mama store submits plans for new building on 19th

       Mountain Mama, the Westside's largest natural-foods grocery, has submitted formal plans to the city for a new store to be built on a vacant lot at 720 N. 19th St.
       “I do not anticipate any problems,” said Heather Rose of City Planning, noting that the application can be approved by staff (no action needed by Planning Commission or City Council).
       Julie Sasinka, who owns and runs the business with her parents and store founders Kent and Sue Sasinka, optimistically predicted groundbreaking will begin before September. However, in an e-mail communication last week, Rose said it might take slightly longer. “This project was just submitted... so it will go through the typical 5-6 week internal review, and after that time we will know if there are any big issues that need to be addressed,” she explained.
       The overall target, according to Sasinka, is to open the doors by next spring, possibly as early as Feb. 1. “We're super-excited,” Sasinka said. “It will be a new facility in a bigger building, with coffee bars and expanded options all around.”
       She expressed one disappointment - that major increases in construction costs have forced the family to forego a stucco application over the cement-block outer wall. “We had to make readjustments,” she said. “With construction, there are always snags. But it will still look good.”
       The new location will be just west of Uintah Gardens, at 19th's intersection with Henderson Avenue. The building will have about 600 square feet more retail space than the 5,000 square feet in the current store. Additional space will be provided upstairs for offices.
       The Mountain Mama site plan shows the building on the northwest portion of the nearly half-acre lot. There will be 20 parking spaces along the property's east side (next to 19th) and south side (along Hender-son). The west side will be next to a north-south alley between Henderson and Glenn Street. Behind the rear (north) side is an east-west alley; on the other side of that alley is a one-story commercial building facing onto 19th Street with a dry cleaners, a barber shop and a tavern.
       The application to the city involves a request for approval of a minor development (defining the property's structural layout, drainage control, utilities and landscaping) and a rear setback variance (6 inches, instead of the code-required 20 feet). The latter reduction, which would put the rear of the building next to the alley, is needed “in order to meet the space requirements of the business,” according to the store Project Statement that was part of the application.
       The proximity to the existing commercial building has raised a potential concern about the impact on the air conditoning units in the nearest business (the dry cleaners). Dick Strauch of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), who tracks older Westside developments for the the volunteer group, noted this point at the July 24 meeting of the OWN board.
       The Sasinkas (under the name, Roots LLC) own the 19th Street property. They lease the space for the current store, located in a strip mall at 1625 W. Uintah St. The sites are near each other - the current address is just south of the Uintah Gardens shopping center; the new one will be just west of it.
       Staying close to Uintah Gardens is not by chance. The Sasinkas, who started their business 28 years ago in Uintah Gardens itself, state in a project description to the city: “It is extremely important to maintain the existing customer base that currently patronizes the business by relocating to a nearby location. The site selected was the only one available in the Uintah Gardens area.”
       The project architect is CRS Architects; the contractor is Peak Construc-tion.
       The new store has been in the works since the family bought the property in 2006. A sign announcing a spring 2009 opening has been posted on the 19th Street site for about a year and a half.

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