Experts Debate Historic Significance of Carmel Valley Mall – Monterey Herald

CARMEL VALLEY — If he’s alive today, Olof Dahlstrand might be a little offended that the fate of improvements to a Carmel Valley mall comes down to whether he was a good enough architect to do his job. be considered historically significant.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors will try to decide whether the owner of the Mid Valley Mall on Carmel Valley Road will be able to follow through on a number of renovations to the various buildings that make up the 68,000 center square feet. It contains about 25 companies.

The decision is key because if deemed historically significant, the landlord will not be able to complete certain renovations that the landlord says will reduce the mall’s value from about $10 million to about $6 million, according to court filings. county. .

The issue goes back many years and has become a contest of battling historians. If one party doesn’t like what a historian says, then they’ll go for the one that suits their point of view. Some consider Dahlstrand a master architect, others do not. This determination is essential since the recognized status of the architect goes a long way in determining whether a structure has historical significance.

The other consideration supervisors must wrestle with is whether the existing structures have been altered so much since the center was built in 1966-67 as to render any historical reference moot.

No less than four analyzes conducted by different experts attempt to answer these questions. Results vary by expert.

The center’s owner, Russell Stanley of the Campbell-based Stanley Group, hired Anthony Kirk, a Santa Cruz expert in architectural history who consulted with the National Park Service, California Department of Parks and Recreation and California Historical Society to make a notice. In a 2019 letter to Stanley, Kirk said he consulted federal, state and local historical records to understand the criteria for determining whether a building has historical significance.

“In my opinion, the property does not meet the criteria for any of these records,” Kirk wrote. “As such, it does not include a historical resource.”

But the Carmel Valley Association, whose stated mission is to “preserve, protect and defend the natural beauty, resources and rural character of the Carmel Valley,” has hired its own consultant, San Francisco-based Page and Turnbull, an architectural firm specializing in historical research, to assess the center. That same year, 2019, Page and Turnbull issued a preliminary opinion that the center meets the criteria as a historic resource.

“Based on our site visit and archival research, Page & Turnbull observes that the buildings and associated landscaping reflect a thorough and cohesive approach to the design of a suburban shopping mall by a locally architect. important and prolific”, the opinion reads: “The buildings and site retain a good degree of integrity from Dahlstrand’s original designs, which appear to have included not only the original complex, but also the additions from 1977 and 1982 to the southeast part of the mall.

A month later, Kirk refuted the rebuttal.

“The Carmel Valley Mall complex is said by Page & Turnbull to reflect ‘a thorough and cohesive approach to suburban mall design,'” he wrote. “I have no idea what that means. It seems to be nothing more than a bafflegab.

Then Stanley upped the ante by hiring Laura Jones, Stanford University’s director of heritage services, to weigh his opinion. She concluded that Dahlstrand is not a leading architect and even if he was, the buildings in the center have undergone so many changes that they have lost their historic integrity.

“The conclusion that the Mid Valley Mall is eligible for listing on the California Register as a ‘work of a master’ is not supported by evidence that Olof Dahlstrand is a ‘figure of generally recognized greatness’. “,” Jones wrote. “No substantial evidence has been offered for the eligibility of all or part of the mall as a historic resource. Even if a new argument were gathered to support such a conclusion, the complex lacks integrity and cannot convey its original design intent.

“It is my professional opinion that the Mid Valley Mall would not be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places or the California Register of Historic Resources. It also does not appear eligible for the official local Monterey County Register of Historic Resources, if named,” she concluded.

The Monterey County Historic Resources Review Board presented a counterweight to Jones’ argument. It met in February and April of this year and reviewed all reports and testimony to date. Ultimately, he passed a resolution recommending that the Board of Supervisors declare the mall eligible for listing on the Monterey County Historic Resources Registry for its association with Dahlstrand. The resolution passed by a vote of 7 to 1.

All debates will now land in the lap of the supervisory board when it meets on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. To view the meeting, go to