By Ken Williams |Editor
Architects for the Alexan Fashion Valley luxury apartment complex have fine-tuned their drawings after getting feedback from the Mission Valley Planning Group’s Design Advisory Board (DAB).
The project is proposed for a triangular-shaped piece of land along the curve of Camino de la Reina at the Avenida del Rio entrance to Fashion Valley Mall.
The 4.92-acre property at 123 Camino de la Reina currently consists of four office buildings occupied by Mission Valley News and its parent company, San Diego Community News Network, as well as Mueller College, Southern States University, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, San Diego Children’s Choir, Cloud 9 SuperShuttle, the NAI San Diego commercial real estate company and other businesses.
If the Alexan project is approved, the tenants will be required to move and the four buildings will be demolished. Typically, tenants are given a 90-day notice to vacate.
Property owner Trammell Crow Residential (TRC) returned to the DAB meeting on Feb. 29 for another informational presentation, and company officials said they hoped to start construction by August 2017. The completion date is targeted for 2019.
DAB members peppered the two TRC officials with questions, but overall seemed pleased with the changes. No vote was taken since it was not listed as an action item.
The DesignARC LA architectural firm addressed previous concerns from DAB members, who had said that the building façade facing state Route 163 was “monotonous, with regard to massing, height, and color.”
“We have now created movement along the freeway side,” said Alec Schiffer, TRC’s managing director of development. He said the architects accomplished that by alternating materials and balconies.
The color palette was also adjusted, Schiffer said, to allow the Alexan complex “to fit in” with its prominent next-door neighbor, the five-story Union-Tribune office at 350 Camino de la Reina. The iconic building — designed by Frank Hope & Associates, mixing redbrick with concrete to create a modern façade — will be vacated by the newspaper by late spring after the staff moves Downtown. The property’s new owner, developer Casey Brown, has already began to demolish the fifth floor and plans to convert the building into “top of the line” offices with contemporary amenities. Brown has already gutted the printing and distribution building, and also plans to build luxury apartments facing the San Diego River.
To create even more synergy with the U-T property, Schiffer said, Alexan’s architects will use walnut bark, burnt almond and matte as primary colors in addition to natural concrete and stucco.
The entrance to Alexan’s seven-story mixed-use building, which would include a “destination restaurant” on the ground floor, will be opposite the main entrance to the U-T property.
The six-story residential building, shaped irregularly and featuring a large swimming pool, mostly fronts along Camino de la Reina. Schiffer said only few apartment units would face the freeway.
The six-story parking structure will be constructed on the back of the property along the freeway, and will mostly be hidden from view from the street level. The garage’s façade will be painted solid metal panels.
Schiffer said TRC expects to widen Camino de la Reina from the 163 overpass to the opposite end of the property. Brown will also be widening the opposite of the street.
Because the northeast side of the Alexan property floods at the 163 overpass during major rainstorms, TRC plans to elevate the land by 30 feet to take the complex out of the flood plain. He said the flooding issue is why TRC decided to build an above-ground garage instead of providing underground parking.
Plans are to make the buildings as green as possible. Solar hot water is being considered, although Schiffer said it would only partially power the entire complex. Heating and cooling units would be placed on the roof and shielded from public view.
Xeriscape landscaping and its drought-resistant plants will be utilized.
DAB members questioned the developer further about parking. Schiffer said the project meets all the city standards. “The city requires 399 parking spots, and we have 408,” he said. “We have 67 commercial parking spots, the same as the city requires.”
The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is in the process of being completed, and Schiffer said they have finished the greenhouse gas and traffic reports.
When pressed to explain what a “destination restaurant” was, Schiffer pointed to Stella Public House at 1429 Island Avenue in Downtown, which describes itself as “farm to table pizza & craft beer love.” He also mentioned Underbelly, located on the northeast corner of Upas and 30th streets in North Park, a restaurant on the ground floor of The North Parker apartment complex designed by architect Jonathan Seagal.
“Have you seen anything like this in Mission Valley?” he asked rhetorically.
Reviewing the project, Schiffer said it has “great elevation” and “a lot of color.”
He went even further, telling DAB members how proud he was.
“I may be biased, but I think it’s the best project that will be built in Mission Valley, because of the challenges of the shape of the lot. It’s a real cool design.”
To read our January scoop about this project, go to bit.ly/1LCh6yT.
—Ken Williams is editor of Mission Valley News and Uptown News and can be reached at email@example.com or at 619-961-1952. Follow him on Twitter at KenSanDiego, Instagram account at KenSD or Facebook at KenWilliamsSanDiego.