Two candidates vie for next phase of old library
by Garth Meyer
The Redondo Beach city council took in two proposals last week on the future of the historic library at Veterans Park, voting to gather more information before a decision on who to partner with.
Applicants Chef Dora Presents and Made By Meg showcased their plans for how they would – as City Manager Mike Witzansky described – “create a destination, not just an event venue.”
Chef Dora operates the Catalina Room up the street on Catalina Avenue. Dora told the council that she would use the Room’s commercial kitchen to make items to sell at the old library, in a “Beachside Bistro” she said, talking about a “coastal Gatsby feeling,” “the Ralph Lauren room” and the main entrance functioning like a lobby at a hotel.
She said that separate rooms could be rented, and two events could be held at the same time.
Made By Meg, owned by Meg Walker, has its office, catering kitchen and a cafe on Pacific Coast Highway in Redondo Beach. She told the council that she is “amenable to the hybrid model,” referring to the city’s desire to retain the ability to put on community events itself (such as art shows).
Walker told the council she would first want to have two years of proven success renting the venue, then open a cafe.
“It could be shorter,” she told Easy Reader Monday.
Walker also presented a plan for restoration work in the library building, estimated by her architects last December to cost just under $400,000. It would be her investment, focused mostly on bathrooms and “getting-ready spaces.”
She said she had more than $300,000 “earmarked, set aside and waiting.”
“With any investment comes a calculation, but they pay off,” Walker said, hoping for at least a five-year contract in exchange.
She also operates the La Venta Inn in Palos Verdes.
The city’s community development department recommended Chef Dora to the council, over Walker, because of her particular focus on the cafe option.
Walker’s view differed, to a point.
“It’s rather cavernous,” she said of the library, opting to focus on a cafe outside. “On the beach side, with the caveat of proper permitting. Indoor is certainly possible. The other piece of this is what the community wants. We have to do a bit of research.”
Walker’s grandfather has a brick with his name on it at the Veterans Park Memorial, a Navy lieutenant in World War II.
“It feels like (it would be) fate, I met my husband at the Redondo Beach dog park,” she said.
Walker contacted the city in 2020, when the previous leaseholders bowed out as the pandemic began.
“I hope we can bring this to fruition, with me winning, very soon,” she said.
Her threshold would be to reach $4 million in revenue from rentals before opening a cafe.
City councilman Zein Obagi, Jr., asked the city manager about interest from museums.
“There wasn’t much,” Mike Witzansky said of the request-for-proposals process, which began in October 2022, and phone calls from the city to museum organizations.
The council has previously set aside $800,000 to improve elevators in the 1931 building and replace exterior windows.
The building closed as a library in 1991 after an earthquake. Seismic repairs were later made and a commercial kitchen added.
Councilman Nils Nehrenheim made a motion for both Chef Dora and Walker to come back with direct proposals for a cafe or similar operation and to verify their finances.
“Affordability (in using the venue) has got to be a factor throughout the conversation,” Witzansky said.
Efforts to reach Chef Dora for comment on this article were unsuccessful. ER