IDEA1 Considered ‘The Ultimate Mixed-Use Development’ in San Diego
IDEA1, a six-story, residential-office-retail project nearing completion in East Village, may represent the ultimate in mixed-use development that San Diego planners have been pining for over the past 40 years.
It will have 295 apartments, office and retail uses, a ground floor fitness center, top-floor clubhouse and a 13,000-square-foot open-air atrium, “The Hub.” Open to the public, it’s where visitors can attend concerts, TED talks and movie screenings and bump into each other — out of which encounters may come the next big thing.
“It really fits,” said Wil Reynolds, founder and CEO of Philadelphia-based Seer Interactive, which is moving its West Coast office from Little Italy to IDEA1 by the end of the year. “It almost fell into our laps.”
IDEA stands for innovation, design, education and the arts — the four pillars of a 35-block, 93-acre district conceived by developers Pete Garcia and David Malmuth in 2011 — bounded by City College, Park Boulevard, Interstate 5 and Market Street. And IDEA1 is their first concrete example of what they hope the district will produce.
So far, progress has occurred on all four counts:
- More innovative, startup companies moving to East Village, as well as some one-of-a-kind temporary installations, such as the Quartyard eating and drinking center housed in recycled shipping containers, the Silo event space and Smarts Farm community garden;
- Several architectural and graphic design firms have opened their doors;
- The Urban Discovery Academy opened as have the Fab Lab for custom product fabrication and new buildings for City College; and,
- Art and entertainment venues, plus many restaurants, have arrived along with new housing projects.
“IDEA1 is the first step in establishing the district’s vision of becoming San Diego’s design + technology innovation hub,” their website states. “We will achieve this goal by mixing all of the critical uses — office, residential and retail — in a way that encourages interaction between inhabitants of this block and the larger community.”
Located on the block bounded by Park and E, F and 13th streets, IDEA1 looks like a pre-World War II glass and concrete warehouse converted to create office space at the F Street entrance. And that was the original plan.
But financing could not be had for speculative office space, even in the face of growing office demand by urban-living millennials, because there was no major anchor tenant.
So Garcia and Malmuth signed a 99-year lease with the San Diego Community College District and brought in Lowe Enterprises and LaSalle Investment Management to back a mostly residential building, part of which can be converted to office use in the future.
“We think we have something unique, not just another ‘podium project,’” Garcia said, a reference to six-story residential developments of wood frame construction on a concrete podium and offering minimal public space and commercial amenities.
The apartments, ranging from 550 to 1,200 square feet and averaging $2,700 per month, have just become available for leasing with occupancy by Sept. 30 (Sign up here if you’re interested). They range from penthouses to one-bedrooms with some laid out as expandable live-work lofts.
Residents will have access to a rooftop clubhouse with a spa overlooking downtown at the corner of Park and F (and sheathed in metal to resemble a water tower).
The commercial space on the ground floor will include Seer Interactive’s 7,700-square-foot office space, moving in by December; 3,200-square-foot gourmet taco Lola 55 restaurant, due to open in January; and a coffee and beer joint, bike “cafe,” overseen by a bike repair expert, a live-in barber and other small businesses if current leasing negotiations come to fruition. The average 10-year lease is going for $2.75 per square foot and the live-work units are available on a year-to-year lease.
“They love it,” Malmuth said, because, as Garcia explained, “It addresses the need for startups.” Someone with a great idea could experiment without making a long-term commitment in such a space and expand into IDEA1 spaces or relocate elsewhere.
Designed by the Miller Hull architectural firm, IDEA1 is nothing like the typical warehouse converted to office or retail use. Its center opens to the sky, and The Hub can be accessed from all four streets surrounding the building via four distinctly designed “paseos.”
The Hub, to be managed by Pinnacle Living along with the rest of the property, will include the “IDEA Box” on the second level — an all glass enclosure for conferences, meetings and outdoor movies rear-projected onto “smart glass” that becomes a 10-by-17-foot video screen.
Mixed-use developments have been talked up in planning and architectural circles for decades as an antidote to the downside of traditional zoning practices that separated housing from shopping from work spaces and led to unwalkable communities and long-distance commutes.
The Urban Land Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank, has typically said such projects should include three distinct uses in one building that interact with each other and enhance the experience of visitors, workers and residents.
But bankers have largely turned down loans for such projects, saying multiuse poses conflicts and higher risks for return on investment.
“The idea of mixed-use in San Diego normally isn’t really mixed use,” said local economist and developer consultant Gary London.
Instead, a building might be primarily residential with a token amount of ground floor office. Or a development might include separate uses in side-by-side buildings. Uptown District in Hillcrest, Westfield Horton Plaza downtown and master-planned communities, such as Civita, Liberty Station, Otay Ranch and 4S Ranch, offer examples of mixed-use planning.
“What makes IDEA1 more interesting is they’re making a real effort to activate the ground floor on every side with different commercial (uses),” London said.
The Hub will be open to the public, not just residents and commercial tenants, and that’s a unique feature not seen elsewhere, London said.
Unlike many office tenants, Seer International’s Reynolds said he was attracted to IDEA1, not by panoramic views from the top of the building, but by the ground-floor access to The Hub. He predicted his 27 local employees (expected to grow to 70 in the next few years) will interact with the public and get “inspired” in their digital marketing and advertising pursuits. He also likes the idea that he and his fellow executives and managers from Philadelphia will be able stay in a company-rented apartment upstairs when they visit the San Diego office.
“I like the idea that my team will have a bunch of amenities around them that are going to be used by all kinds of people,” he said. “I cannot wait.”
If you are a young professional looking to live in an innovative live + work + create community, welcome to IDEA1. Sign up for our Residential Interest List and get first dibs on apartments as they become available.
LaSalle executives Dan Witte, head of strategic investments, and Kyle Dupree, senior vice president for multifamily management and based in San Diego, agreed that investors have not embraced mixed-use projects other than in high-density locations, particularly around transit hubs.
“Capital providers, owners, do have a tendency to ‘bucket’ their investments,” Witte said, and underwriters likewise specialize in particular building types. “We’re all trying to respond to changes in demand in the market place.”
Dupree said IDEA1’s Hub, open to the public while also outfitted with necessary security features, has not been tried to such a degree anywhere that he knows of.
“Everyone seems to be interested in that concept and to see how well it works,” he said. “Real estate is all local, so it has to be the right project in the right location and often at the right time, too.”
LaSalle’s $58 billion worldwide portfolio includes 13,000 apartments in 53 projects in the U.S., including 1,778 units in four San Diego projects, said spokesman Matt Schuler. Eighteen of the properties have a mixed-use component.
Mike McNerney, senior vice president of Lowe Enterprises, said until large employers commission a major office tower downtown, IDEA1 will help fill the demand for startup office users.
“What we’ve really got to do is create different places for a new generation of companies to grow,” McNerney said.
In the next economic cycle, he said big tech firms in San Francisco, Seattle and other cities may decide to expand to San Diego where office rents are lower and young talent wants to live and work without having to own a car and commute to Torrey Pines and Sorrento Mesa tech centers. The theory will face its first test when a handful of small office projects get built in the next few years.
Cushman & Wakefield office broker Derek Hulse said it took a “progressive, young company” like Seer Interactive to take a ground-floor office location in East Village’s still evolving street scene — a mix of brand-new developments and homeless campouts.
“We’re finding that office tenants do want to be in what was previously reserved for retail tenants,” Hulse said. “Those spots are becoming premium spots for office tenants.”
The CBRE brokerage is handling the restaurant and retail spaces.
Even as the ribbon cutting nears on IDEA1, Garcia and Malmuth are mapping plans for IDEA2. They want to develop below-market housing that they call “attainable housing” — conventionally financed without a subsidy and designed with the “essentials of shelter at a price below current market.”
They also said that the IDEA District’s goals will need further public and private support to carry out — a redevelopment plan for the MTS bus yard and Tailgate Park; and marketing plan to attract more companies downtown; success in reducing homelessness; and a “robust program” to take advantage of UC San Diego’s coming urban campus.
You can live at IDEA1 & eat tacos too. Fresh tacos by Lola 55 will be on the ground floor!
If you are looking to live in the most innovative live + work + create community in San Diego, welcome to IDEA1. Sign up for our Residential Interest List and get first dibs as 1&2 bedroom apartments, live/work lofts, and penthouses become available. IDEA1 opens December 1st, 2017 so don’t miss out!