500 block of Maple purchased, improvements planned
By Lea Boyd
Escrow closed last week on a real estate transaction that encompasses the entire east side of the 500 block of Maple Avenue. Baker Bradford Holdings sold the property, which includes several residences, an office building and two commercial buildings, to Thom Vernon, the recently retired co-founder of Fresh Produce clothing company, who sees his purchase as a “fun” opportunity to convert the patchwork block to a spruced-up, mostly residential neighborhood that pays respect to the “history and charm of Carpinteria.”
Vernon and his architect, Dylan Chappell, submitted conceptual plans to the City of Carpinteria to complete the multi-phased project. The first phase would be conversion of a two-story, 9,600 square foot commercial building at 550 Maple Ave. into two multi-unit residential buildings. Vernon hopes to achieve this by, essentially, “cutting a swath through the middle” and remodeling the remaining two pieces into a four-unit building and a six-unit building. The structure was built in the 1960s. “It’s a pretty good building,” Vernon said, “It’s just ugly.”
Vernon plans to improve the cluster of four cottages on the corner of Maple Avenue and 6th Street without any changes to their structure. “They just need a little tender loving care,” Vernon said. He added that the cottages are longterm rentals, and he will likely make improvements one by one as tenants turn over.
The third element of the plan is the demolition of a commercial building and a single family residence in the southeast corner of the property and construction of a triplex of one-bedroom residences.
The large warehouse facing the railroad tracks, which was part of Vernon’s purchase, is not included in the plans submitted to the city. Vernon said that improvements to that building would be a final phase that might be years down the line. “In the long term, I would like to see some type of industrial use with a retail piece to it. The view from the dock is pretty incredible,” he said of the warehouse.
Vernon emphasized that the large Torrey pine on the property, which neighbors have expressed concern for, will remain. “We will do nothing that will affect that big Torrey pine,” he said. “That is the prize of the block.”
A few years ago, Vernon purchased a 7th Street property with a collection of ramshackle cottages and remodeled them into quaint, vacation rentals that have since been featured in numerous Southern California magazines.
The retired apparel company owner, who now divides his time between Santa Barbara and Colorado, notes that his discovery of the 7th Street property marked the beginning of his relationship with Carpinteria, a town for which he now has great affection. Like his new Maple Avenue project, he said, the 7th Street project was motivated more by an interest in restoration than a need to make a profit. “It was a complete dump,” he said of the 7th Street cottages, “and I thought, ‘This looks like fun.’”