With eye toward future, downtown Murrieta business owners start organizing

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Valley News/Will Fritz file photo

A group of business owners is organizing to attract more stores and restaurants — and more customers with them — to Murrieta’s downtown area.

The Downtown Murrieta Merchants and Property Owners Association held its very meeting at Wine Ranch Grill and Cellars on Washington Avenue to kick off the organization on Thursday, Feb. 6.

“The Association’s vision is to stimulate public activity, attract attendance (and) revenue for downtown merchants/property owners, and be an advocate with the City of Murrieta (and) other public entities,” the association said in a news release before the meeting.

At the event, Kelli Jones, a local leasing agent who also sits on Murrieta’s planning commission, gave a brief presentation on the direction Murrieta’s downtown area is headed.

“Amazon, as we all know has basically taken out these anchor stores and taken out the mom and pop stores as well. You’re starting to see malls become obsolete. What’s happening is the younger generation loves to have those open air spaces to walk, shop,” Jones said. “We’ve all seen Old Town Temecula, they’re almost at maximum buildout.”

That shift, she said, is coming to Murrieta as well.

“The Press Espresso has opened their second store,” Jones said. “Downtown Public House has opened up Public House No. 2, and everyone’s doing well.”

She said construction is expected to begin this year on a mixed-use building near the intersection of Kalmia Street and Washington on downtown Murrieta’s north end, and there are ongoing talks about a roof-top restaurant and bar — similar to Luke’s on Front in Old Town Temecula — going in there.

“One thing we don’t want to do is we don’t want to have any conflict with what we have right now,” she said. “It’s basically like putting a puzzle together.”

The rest of that building is expected to be devoted to retail and office space.

In that same area, Jones said there are currently talks with a potential boutique hotel developer.

Murrieta Deputy Director of Development Services Scott Agajanian, who was at the meeting, said after the event that the city is “excited to see the turnout of businesses that want to see the downtown area grow.”

The city, he said, wants to see its downtown become a local destination, but that’s something the city can’t manufacture on its own; it needs the support of local business. And now, he said, that’s what is beginning to take form.

“We know there’s interest from the private market to invest in this area, but now we’re seing the interest from the grassroots level, working together as a team, as a cohesive unit,” Agajanian said.

He said in the next decade, he sees downtown Murrieta as being a “walkable district that people can come in, go grab a bite to eat, stay here, play here, have fun and have an experience that is really destinational, somewhere that you come to come and hang out, someplace that you spend time.”

But, he said, Murrieta wants to distinguish its downtown from Temecula’s better-known Old Town district, which combines wild west themes with a bar and restaurant scene.

“We want to have tinges of the original Murrieta feel, but we want to really bring new age construction, new development and new types of experiences,” Agajanian said. “Whereas Temecula has done a great job creating their downtown area, we really want ours to have a unique flavor to it.”

Will Fritz can be reached by email at wfritz@reedermedia.com.