Commercial Districts in Mammoth Lakes

Back in the 1990’s there was a famous planning commissioner who talked about having a “giant eraser” and erasing Mammoth’s commercial districts so that we could start over.

Mammoth’s lack of a true town center or a quaint historic district is a major complaint. The evolution of Mammoth’s commercial districts is founded in the fact that the preponderance of Mammoth’s visitors come by car. Strip mall type development with large parking lots accommodated both the volume of cars and large piles of plowed snow.

Mammoth had little cohesive public planning prior to incorporation in 1984, and by then it was too late. Efforts have been made to make the town more pedestrian friendly and “flow,” but the reality is that as long as the majority of visitors are coming by car then what we have works.

The commercial districts can be described as the Main St. and Old Mammoth corridors, The Village, and Mammoth does have an Industrial Park.

Main St.’s odd configuration with the “old public road” dates back to the 1960’s plan for the trans-Sierra highway. This is where it was to begin. With those plans scraped, this is what Mammoth was left with. Decades of discussion have tried to improve it, and even the Ski Area has proposed to put a gondola down Main St. The Old Mammoth corridor is centered around the Vons Supermarket, a location that everyone inevitably has to visit. Old Mammoth Road was revitalized in the early 2000’s with sidewalks, lighting and much needed storm drains.

The planning efforts of the late 1980’s at least moved the industrial uses in town to an Industrial Park at the east end of town just above the Water District plant.

But the commercial corridors remain a mixture of strip malls and stand alone buildings. The Town and County administrative offices have occupied upper floor space in various malls for many years. The government buildings like the Post Office and the new Court House are built without any consideration to the mountain aesthetic or how they interact with the community.

The Village

The Village is a redeveloped area that was originally an extension of the Main St. corridor. It has a core of commercial properties at ground level with condo hotel units above. The design is commonly referred to as “faux Alpine village” and is an attempt to replicate the village environment in charming European alpine villages. This is a popular design in modern ski resorts and was made famous by Intrawest. The owners of both the commercial and residential spaces contribute to a common area fund to promote special events and seasonal decor.

Main Street

The Main St. corridor features the Post Office where all local residents inevitably visit because there is no mail delivery to physical addresses. There are several gas stations, the Luxury Outlet Mall, Wave Rave, Schat’s Bakery and numerous other restaurants, the new Court House, etc. Both the Town’s and Forest Service Visitor’s Center is on Main St. at the entry to town.

Old Mammoth Road

The Old Mammoth corridor has seen a complete renovation of the historic Sierra Nevada Inn property, the addition of a new bowling alley facility by Mammoth Creek, the addition of a beautiful public library between Vons and the schools, and various major building renovations. There are numerous restaurants and bars, banks, etc. The Old Mammoth corridor is sometimes referred to as the “commercial service district.”