CLAYTON -- A key and controversial property at the gateway to the downtown has been put up for sale.
The Clayton Community Church has listed its property at 6055 Main St. -- the former Pioneer Inn -- and is eying a property outside of downtown, a change in plans that might cool a controversy on what should be built along the town's main street.
The church's plans are to demolish the Pioneer Inn building to construct four buildings spread over 42,000 square feet, including a 500-seat sanctuary and nearly 6,000 square feet of retail.
The project has been the source of controversy with critics saying it is a departure from the city's vision for adding more businesses to downtown.
The church put its plan on hold in 2011 after the cost of the project's environmental review increased. Consultants at the time said it would cost more to respond to the 315 individual comments the project received.
Now, the church is looking to build on a property overlooking downtown.
In a letter to the city, Pastor Shawn Robinson said the church's offer to purchase 1027 Pine Hollow Court has been accepted, though it has not been finalized. The property is 4.5 acres and adjacent to Mt. Diablo Elementary School.
The area is zoned for homes and the church would need to go through a permitting process in order to build a church there.
Meanwhile, Robinson has asked the city of Clayton if it is interested in purchasing the Main Street
The City Council has authorized City Manager Gary Napper to hire a commercial appraiser to assess the market value of the property, which has yet to be completed.
Napper said the timing is bad with the recent dissolution of redevelopment agencies by the state, a process the cities have used to purchase properties for redevelopment.
"It's kind of like they are a day late and we are a dollar short," said Napper.
Robinson did not return calls for comment.
Former mayor and real estate broker Pete Laurence wants to set aside the former Pioneer Inn property for commercial use.
He said the three blocks of Main Street and three blocks of Center Street need more storefronts and businesses to draw people to downtown and bring the tax revenue along with it.
For instance, he said there could be more restaurants or a bank in the area, as there is no bank currently in downtown, only an ATM, he said.
"We want what you get with a downtown," Laurence said.
"We are hearing that the commercial market is starting to get some interest again," Councilwoman Julie Pierce said. "There for a while, no one would even talk about it because the economy was so bad."
David DeBolt covers Concord and Clayton. Contact him at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.