By Ken Williams | Editor
Apartments to replace 4 office buildings across from U-T property
A triangular-shaped piece of land along the curve of Camino de la Reina across from developer Casey Brown’s Union-Tribune property will be redeveloped into a large apartment complex with space for ground-floor Class A “top of the line” offices and a “destination” restaurant.
The proposed project will require the demolition of four office buildings and will displace tenants that include Mission Valley News and its parent company, the San Diego Community News Network, as well as Mueller College, Southern States University, NAI San Diego commercial real estate company, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, San Diego Children’s Choir and other businesses.
Mission Valley News learned about the project during an interview with Brown in November about his plans for the Union-Tribune property, which will include developing a large luxury apartment complex facing the San Diego River. The News began researching the matter, and found out that the Trammell Crow Residential (TCR) multifamily real estate company had presented an informational item about the project at the Nov. 30 meeting of the Mission Valley Planning Group’s Design Advisory Board (DAB). The News then obtained documents from DAB for use in this article.
If approved by the city’s planners, the Trammell Crow project is expected to break ground in summer 2017 with a completion date in 2019. To date, current tenants have not been given notice of when they must vacate their offices, but a relocation expert who asked not to be named told the News that tenants typically get a six-month to one-year notice.
The proposed complex is dubbed the Alexan Fashion Valley, the name capitalizing on its prime location at the Camino de la Reina entrance to the upscale Fashion Valley mall at Avenida Del Rio. The 4.92-acre property is within walking distance of the mall as well as the Fashion Valley Transit Center, where various bus lines connect at the Fashion Valley trolley station.
When Brown’s luxury apartments are erected and the next-door Town and Country Resort & Convention Center remake is completed, this stretch of Mission Valley will be thoroughly modernized. In addition, the immediate San Diego River area will be transformed from an eyesore attracting the homeless into a beckoning space for use by pedestrians, bicyclists and hikers.
“Between us, Lowe’s [Town and Country] and the Union-Tribune, we are creating a new neighborhood,” said Alec Schiffer, TRC’s managing director of development.
He touted the location as key to the project.
“Mission Valley is unique to San Diego as a true transit-oriented community where residents have centralized access to a broad range of services, retail and employment,” Schiffer said. “Our goal is to create an enlightened mixed-use residential project that is desired by residents and a complement to the community.”
Alexan Fashion Valley will retain the address of 123 Camino de la Reina, but the project site plan shows that the main entrance would be directly opposite the main entrance to the Union-Tribune property. A back road, which could possibly be gated on both ends, would parallel southbound state Route 163 and its exit to westbound Interstate 8. A back fence and landscaping would be barriers to freeway traffic and the apartment complex would be butt up against Camino de la Reina, with trees and landscaping between the sidewalk and the complex.
Schiffer provided a fact sheet showing that the 235,388-square-foot project would be a large, irregularly-shaped, five-story building with 284 residential units. Apartment sizes range from 556 to 1,786 square feet, most of which will be studio or one-bedroom units. A limited number of two- and three-bedroom units are planned.
The architectural style is described as contemporary, and the building would be LEED certified.
The ground floor would have 8,800 square feet of Class A office space and room for a 3,550-square-foot “destination” restaurant. Another 8,500 square feet would be devoted to amenities for the tenants.
Centrally located on the property, facing the freeway, would be a parking structure consisting of 407 stalls for residents and 76 stalls for commercial uses. Access would be via the main entrance or the back road.
The DAB document stated that some members of DAB “expressed concerns that not enough parking is provided, acknowledging that transit-oriented developments do not effectively reduce the number of cars owned by residents. The applicant acknowledged that the project includes parking that is above-and-beyond the minimum city requirements and is consistent with market demands,” the document stated.
The biggest criticism by DAB members regarded the initial renderings involved the look: “The DAB expressed concern that the building façade facing the freeway is monotonous, with regard to massing, height, and color. The DAB requested the applicant consider alternative solutions to break up and better articulate this side of the building.”
In addition, the “DAB requested that when the applicant next presents to DAB, they include proposed building materials and colors for the project – some of which may related to the adjacent Union-Tribune redevelopment.”
Schiffer told Mission Valley News that the architect, DesignARC, has retooled the design elements based on feedback from DAB members at the November meeting and he provided the newspaper an updated rendering that has not yet been reviewed by DAB.
Trammell Crow and DesignARC officials are expected to update the DAB at its meeting at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 4, at the Mission Valley Library.
Architect Dion McCarthy with DesignARC described the project this way:
“[Alexan] Fashion Valley is designed as a series of residential courtyards that both surround and screen the parking for the project. The largest courtyard is placed at the garage and leasing office entry, and is framed by two taller sentinels of residential units, featuring enhanced glazing, which serve as beacons of identity for the project. This generous courtyard serves the project’s residential, commercial and retail uses by providing light and landscaped green space at the heart of the complex,” he said.
“The enhanced glazing of the sentinels are continuous with full-floor glazing employed on the ground floor surrounding the central courtyard, and all of the retail and commercial spaces. This ribbon of glazing is intended to create maximum visibility into and out of the project, and to visually lighten the project’s mass, imparting a delicacy to its forms,” he continued.
“Natural colors found in and around the site are employed as the color scheme, and these colors are intended to harmonize with the colors and textures of the adjacent Union-Tribune building.”
—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.