IDEA District’s 1st project on track to open in December 1st, 2017

Construction continues on IDEA1, a six-story building featuring residential units, retail and office space, and a communal gathering space that will be open to the public.

The $90 million project broke ground in November. It is the first mixed-use project launched in the slowly reviving Upper East Village area of downtown San Diego known as the IDEA District.

The 282,404-square-foot IDEA1 will span an entire block, bound by E, F, and 13th streets and Park Boulevard. It will have 7,000 square feet of office space and 7,000 square feet of retail.

Designed by Seattle-based Miller Hull, the structure will be five stories of wood frame construction over a concrete podium. Miller Hull intends to relocate its San Diego office to IDEA1.

According to Brian Hajjar, project executive for contractor Swinerton Builders, the concrete deck should be completed by the end of the month.

Swinerton will then begin the wood framing. The project is slated for completion in early December 2017, with move-ins starting just prior to completion.

IDEA1 features 295 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments, with 25 ground floor live/work units and eight penthouse suites. Unit sizes range from 500 square feet to 1,200 square feet.

Hajjar said the units showcase four styles: a raw, industrial look; a refined industrial design with clean finishes and high-end flooring; the more polished penthouses; and a playful, fun design where tenants can paint their entry door any color they want.

The biggest amenity at IDEA1 is the Hub, an interior courtyard that serves as a flexible events space. It features a movie screen and PA system, and can accommodate several hundred people. Programming for the Hub could include concerts, movies, TED Talks or educational offerings.

Ground floor retail and community spaces feature glass doors that open up onto the Hub space, and are interactive and flow into one another, Hajjar said. A collaborative environment called the IDEA Box can be used for social activities, business meetings and presentations.

“The amenities are very much geared toward the young entrepreneur, the business-minded professional in the 25- to 35-year-old range,” he said.

“It’s not a closed environment. They want people to feel comfortable with the surrounding areas and what they have to offer, and bring those spaces inside. The IDEA District is the area to be for people who want something different — not a high-rise, and not suburbia, but a playful interaction with downtown urban life.”

For the retail portion, development partner Lowe Enterprises is looking to install a mix of shops and eateries that will benefit residents and the neighborhood.

“We are talking with several restaurant operators who understand our desire to create a place that feels like the kitchen in a comfortable home — the place everyone wants to hang out,” said Mike McNerney, Lowe senior vice president.

“The office component will be ideal for a company that wants to display their creativity, whether that be in design, marketing or digital media,” he said.

IDEA1 embodies the concepts of the IDEA (Innovation, Design, Education, Art) District, since its mix of residential, retail and office uses encourages interaction and collaboration between inhabitants and the larger community.

The development is across the street from the New School of Architecture and a stone’s throw from Quartyard, an urban park with eateries and a bar that also hosts evening events.

Other IDEA District neighbors include FabLab, a community fabrication lab that provides the tools and training for innovators to develop their ideas; Smart Farm, a community garden; the Urban Discovery Academy, a project-based K-8 charter school; Silo, a popular outdoor gathering spot and events venue; and the future East Village Green, a community park set to begin construction later this year and open in late 2018. In April, construction also began on Broadstone Makers Quarter, another residential mixed-use building in the area.

The IDEA District, a 35-block region in the Upper East Village, aims to be San Diego’s design and technology innovation hub.

The area is bound by Market Street, 11th Street, C Street and Interstate 5. During the next decade, plans for the district call for the creation of a dense, vibrant urban environment embracing the crafts and artistic trades, and technology and design-oriented companies.

With losing redevelopment funds in San Diego, the district has had to find its own ways to finance projects. That’s made for organic — if somewhat slow — growth, said David Malmuth. He and business partner Pete Garcia are the developers behind the IDEA District.

“It’s unusual to see a project that has been almost exclusively ground up, with no government intervention, no top-down master planning — which is unique, but it’s not the easy way to do it,” Malmuth said. “What’s occurred has occurred because of a variety of participants who have decided they want to band around a set of principles. So it’s not the fast or easy way to do it, but I think it’s yielded a lot of authentic projects.”

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