Mansion on the move?

Chicoans who are used to catching a glimpse of Miller Mansion while driving down The Esplanade may need to adjust their glasses sometime in the future: A local developer hopes to move or demolish the huge house and replace it with three retail stores.

Bob Summerville, an associate planner with the city of Chico, said the ball got rolling with a recent meeting between the project applicant and the Development Review Board. But there are many more steps the applicant will have to take before the mansion is out: environmental review, hearings before the Architectural Review Board and Planning Commission, an archeological survey—even a small traffic study. Buildings on the 3.2-acre site at 2185 The Esplanade would have to be set back at least 25 feet from Lindo Channel. The land is zoned community commercial, even though the General Plan designates it as low-density residential. “Given the zoning, what they’re proposing, they can do,” Summerville said.

Developer Jeff Farrar, who bought the land and is working to build on it, is excited about the project. “Commercial development has just grown up around it,” he said. “For residential purposes, [the mansion] doesn’t make sense there.”

The proposal—details of which are still to be revealed—includes an anchor tenant in the form of a drug store with a drive-through pharmacy, a bank with a drive-through and a third retail space totaling 27,672 square feet. (Drive-throughs need a special-use permit from the city.) Farrar described the center’s appearance as “attractive, respectable and upscale.”

Farrar also plans to “keep as many trees as possible,” especially the large oak in front of the mansion.

“The preference is to relocate the building” rather than tear it down, Farrar added. A tentative location has been found to move the mansion to a lot near Dallas Court and Alamo Avenue along Lindo Channel. The current owner, Mike Coen, would retain ownership of the building itself.

Summerville, who used to be vice president of the Chico Heritage Association, said that, while “there will be that nostalgic vein that will strike a lot of people,” the house was built in 1955, and “It’s not an archeological gem.” But local lore does hold that the property is where the brother of Gen. John Bidwell made his home. More recently, the mansion functioned as a bed-and-breakfast inn.

Save your energy

Some local businesses may qualify for free energy-saving advice and conservation measures thanks to a $2 million grant secured by Richard Heath and Associates, Inc. The consulting firm’s Chico office will send “energy coaches” out to see what a business could be doing to use energy more efficiently. Besides potentially money-saving advice, the program could provide up to $400 worth of energy-saving measures, such as special lighting. Then, the team will follow through to see how much energy is being saved.

Tom Barrett, a vice president with the firm, said some businesses don’t realize how much energy they’re wasting, from the types of lights they use to leaving the door open in the summer when the air conditioning is on.

The coaches even came to the News & Review and told us how we could save money by using compact fluorescents instead of incandescent lighting.

To qualify for the Energy Fitness Program, which got its funds from the ratepayer-funded California Public Utilities Commission, a business must be based in the Northern Sacramento Valley and use less than 100 kilowatts of electricity each month.

Call 898-0609 or visit for more information.