The former Bank of America building at 60 Throckmorton Ave.

The former Bank of America building at 60 Throckmorton Avenue.

Dear Esteemed Members of the Mill Valley Planning Commission:

The Chamber of Commerce urges you to give serious and positive consideration to the application pending before you to transform the long vacant Bank of America building into the “Treehouse,” as envisioned by Mill Valley residents/owners and applicants Adam Lynch and Mike Natenshon.

In the years since Jones Lang LaSalle Brokerage put the historic Bank of America building at 60 Throckmorton Avenue on the market, part of a raft of financial institutions divulging themselves of large real estate properties that no longer fit the legacy model of how consumers engage with banks, plenty of movers and shakers in Mill Valley and beyond kicked the tires on the nearly 4,900-square-foot building.

For a long list of reasons – the historic nature of the 112-year-old structure, inability to revamp the frontage to allow for beautiful storefront windows, the prohibitively high costs of downtown Mill Valley commercial spaces, the complexity of matching a viable business model to an extraordinary amount of square footage for a retail shop or restaurant and the massive impact digital platforms have had on traditional brick and mortar businesses, there were few serious prospects.

The founders of the popular Marine Layer clothing brand initially saw the building as a possible retail concept, but pivoted after learning of the significant aforementioned obstacles they saw as untenable.

Instead, they chose a concept that has garnered excitement in cities and towns across the U.S. that look to create gathering spaces for communities wanting reconnection after the years of pandemic disruption. A “recurring revenue” model is important for a very large space with little curb appeal.

That concept is the Treehouse, an adaptive reuse of the building that seeks to transform it into a membership-based club that functions in similar ways to a gym membership or a co-working space–dependent on recurring revenues to survive– but is built to celebrate and foster arts and culture in Mill Valley and beyond. As former Mill Valley Mayor and longtime Marin Independent Journal columnist Dick Spotswood put it, “its local perception is as an elitist private club. Yet, the Outdoor Art Club, a beloved and historic members-only women’s club, is just 100 yards away.”

The space would center around a reimagined social and cultural gathering space featuring a food and beverage menu that focuses more on “elevated bar food with a small, limited menu rather than a fine dining experience, with a hotel lobby type of vibe,” according to the proprietors. 

“We believe the membership is the way to bring this project to life,” they said. “We want a diversity of applicants and a diversity of rich dialogues. The point of the application process is to foster that participation and enrich our community which is the goal of what we are trying to do with this organization.” That would include structured programming and interactive events, including some open to the public. The proprietors told the Chamber Board of their interest in emphasizing a sliding scale membership fee structure tied to levels of engagement and artistic contribution.

The Chamber supports the concept, particularly as our community necessarily adapts to realities and opportunities in the commercial real estate market. We want to attract new and exciting businesses with the resources to re-imagine the community’s use of long empty spaces. We appreciate how conscientiously the proprietors have sought and responded to public input.

The project requires a conditional use permit, meets building height requirements and design guidelines but does not meet current parking requirements. To address those requirements head on, the proprietors have proposed a free shuttle service, provided by the Treehouse, that allows members to be picked up via an app to avoid a negative impact on parking. 

“With climate change, we have to start thinking differently and finding ways to leave the car at home,” Commissioner Greg Hildebrand said at a study session on the proposal earlier this year. “We can’t re-envision Mill Valley around the automobile. I know that is harder for the people who are living right downtown, but you have to walk or bike.”

A proposed roof deck would be limited to 50 people and would not have any food or beverage service for safety purposes, nor any amplified music.  

Jim Welte
Executive Director
Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce



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