By Kelley Atherton
After moving away over a decade ago, Sacha Tomasini decided she wanted to give back to the community she grew up in.
So she and her husband, Zachary Finley, decided to buy the building across the street from Tomasini's Enoteca restaurant (her mother Diana's venture) on 3rd Street and turn it into a retail plaza.
"Overall, it will be better for downtown," Tomasini said about the structural overhaul.
The 20,000-square-foot building went up for sale last summer. They made an offer and closed the deal in January.
"I've always wanted to give back to Crescent City," said Tomasini, who lives in the Bay Area, about the project to be named Abbienna Plaza. She chose the name as a memorial to her pets, a dog named Abby and a cat named Sienna.
She has two tenants lined up and three units that are available. Leslie's Collectibles and Dawn's Treasures will be combined into one unit. Tomasini anticipates the downstairs half to be done by early summer.
"Downtown is coming alive," Tomasini said about the resurgence of development after years of stagnancy that has plagued the central business district. "I wanted to focus on creating spaces for retail."
Currently, development is in phase one: remodeling what used to be H&R Block and moving west toward where Leslie's and Dawn's used to be and around the corner to the Bookcomber.
The next phase will be renovating the upstairs portion. Tomasini has not decided what to do with the space. She wants to get the downstairs done and then work up.
"We're making it economical to help revive downtown," she said about making the leases reasonably priced. "People can move in and make a living."
The front of the building along 3rd Street will have a Tuscan feel, with taller windows, bright new awnings, and flower beds, she said. The main exterior color will stay tan, but the inside will be accented with rich earth tones of reds, yellows and greens.
The plaza will be window shopping-friendly with a front entrance leading into a hallway that snakes through the buildingto pull people in off the street, she said.
Tomasini plans to put windows along the hallway peeking into the shops. To brighten up the hallway, she wants it painted yellow with deep red paneling and hanging blown-glass light fixtures.
"I had a lot of opportunities to figure out the style," Tomasini said about coming up with a theme during the time lapse between looking at the building and actually purchasing it. "I talked to my mom about what would look best."
The plans also include straightening the front of the building into a full rectangle. Currently, it looks as if someone took a large pair of scissors and snipped off the front western corner.
The building predates the 1964 tsunami. Tomasini wants to put up a plaque explaining that it survived the tidal wave. In the building's lifetime it's been a feed store, furniture store and floral shop, amongst other retail.