The Merc: Exterior, Weird Property Lines, Zoning, and Neighbors

Are you guys ready to get into the nitty gritty details of the Merc?! This is obviously very different than buying a home and there are SO many unusual things that factor into being able to convert a commercially zoned building into a house.

Zoning was the first thing that I (like many of you!) wondered about. Having attended a Planning Commission meeting (or 7) in my days I knew that the process to get zoning changed would not be an easy one. Especially because the Merc is very literally the only historic commercial building in Santa Clara.  We involved the city from the very beginning and they said that changing zoning was really not an option.  What we found out was as good of news as possible. The Merc is zoned Commercial Mixed Use, which means that you can live in it, as long as at least part of the building is a commercial business!! (The happiest dance commenced after finding out this news. Though it did complicate things in other ways that we’ll talk about soon)  The reason the Merc is zoned like this is because there was a house on the property that was torn down around 1995. To be able to live in it, we had to present all of our plans (floor plans, site plans, elevations, parking etc.) to the Planning Commission for a conditional use permit. From what I understand, you just need to define exactly what the mixed use will be, and then the city needs to approve the use. (We’ve already crossed this hurdle and received our conditional use permit, but that won’t be until a little later in the story!)

The next hurdle was if we were going to turn it into a home, what about our yard and place for the kids to play?

The property lines for this area are SO weird. They literally run against the building completely on one side and 90% of the way on the other. In fact, the building encroaches on the neighbors property to the west by about a foot, so there is an easement that goes along with it. We’ll talk more about the easement in its own post because it made us almost not buy it.

All of our property is highlighted yellow. The reason for the weird property line/buidling situation is that the LDS church owned the property to the west and when they decided to sell it in 1927 one of the requirements was that the new owners let the Hafen’s build the Merc on the front portion of the property. That’s why the lines run directly against the building.


The exterior isn’t in the greatest shape, there’s been quite a few patches and additions


There are 3 back doors, but only 1 opens onto our property (the one on the far right) our property line is where the pavement is against the building and goes straight back.


There is a garage/workshop on the back side of the parking lot.


Behind that is a large open area that has covered parking stalls. It was used for parking but this is what will be our yard. Because its been vacant for so long, the trees that are on the property line are wild and there is a lot of things that will need to be removed (like the dumpster) but eventually its going to be pretty great!!

A lot of you had questions about living on Main Street and what the ratio was with commercial vs residential. I feel like there could not be a more perfect place. The reality is that a store wouldn’t have existed in some remote lot away from everything and everyone, so yes it is on main street. Thats just what happens when the building is almost 100 years old.

But, Santa Clara Drive is LITERALLY the CUTEST MAIN STREET EVER. There are giant 100+ yr old Sycamore trees lining the street on both sides, not to mention all of the great landscaping that the city has done. Its like driving into a fairytale. There are cute shops and a fruit market right down the road, and so many adorable old houses. If you’ve ever driven on Santa Clara Dr. you are nodding your head in agreement right now, aren’t you!? We’re talking Stars Hollow quaint here people. There is no way that you could live in a building like this on Main St. in St. George because its so heavily commercial but Santa Clara is practically perfect in every way!

There are houses all around the Merc, and with the exception of a few, all of the businesses are in old houses. Here’s a shot of google maps, I’ve circled where the Merc is. As you can see, there are WAY more houses than businesses.

Look at how cute it is from the ariel view! So many trees!!!

The last question that you guys asked (that we asked ourselves!) was what does it look like to live in a house that has GIANT WINDOWS on a main street. While we aren’t at that point in the story yet, I’m going to put your fears to rest and let you know that we’ve figured out a really great solution with our floor plan! Stay tuned!!

Do you have any more questions related to zoning, the neighborhood, property usage etc. that I didn’t address? Leave them below and I’ll answer them!

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Author: Jeff Donaldsons

Good day everyone, I'm a family man who loves hanging out with friends & meeting new people. Family Friends and Coding Yeah!. I also love helping others.