“Demolition started in June and we’re getting very far along with that, anticipating the exterior renovation of the property will be completed in December, though our first tenant won’t likely be open any sooner than January,” said Marcelle McAfee, regional manager for developers Davlyn Investments.
Several weeks ago, Lissilaa Boutique at 1250 Prospect St. was the first tenant to announce it would be moving into La Plaza.
Panera Bread, the sole remaining tenant at the old Jack’s site at 7863 Girard Ave., closed Sept. 15, leaving the complex temporarily uninhabited.
“We’re hoping to find a top-notch international brand that’s seeking a flagship store for what is arguably the most iconic corner in the Village of La Jolla,” said McAfee.
The plan, said McAfee, is to redevelop the high-profile center in the middle of La Jolla’s downtown Village with an array of “luxury boutiques and brands,” though no names have yet been confirmed.
“We’re still collecting letters of intent and we are speaking to candidates,” said McAfee, adding the intent is to find “a signature restaurant for the top floor of what was Panera, a prime location with a large, wrap-around patio dining and ocean views.”
McAfee said a high-end spa is also being sought to fill out the third-floor of the former Jack’s building, as well as another tenant, possibly a cigar lounge.
The goal of La Plaza’s tenant mix is to make the boutique center a destination.
“We want people to enjoy our center and spend their time there, not just breeze through,” she said, adding the tenant mix will begin to be announced in the year’s final quarter.
“We anticipate 12 to 15 tenants, including the restaurant and spa inhabiting mostly smaller-size suites,” McAfee said. “We’re just really excited about helping the image of La Jolla internationally.”
Meanwhile, on a separate but related track, preliminary designs for hardscape and landscaping for La Plaza were reviewed recently by the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance (PDO) Committee, which makes recommendations to La Jolla Community Planning Association, the advisory group on land-use matters for the city.
La Jolla PDO is charged with reviewing projects to ensure they comply with standards set for community development, including use of materials, color schemes and proper signage.
La Jolla architect Jim Alcorn of Alcorn & Associates gave a presentation to La Jolla PDO on landscaping and other design elements of La Plaza.
“There will be more landscaping there in the public right-of-way then there is at present,” Alcorn told PDO committee members. “The sidewalk is going to be completely redone and some new tile and paving and landscaping between and around the existing trees is going to happen.”
Alcorn said parking, includin that available in a parking structure in the Brooks Brothers Building nearby, will be “more than what’s required” to meet the new shopping center’s needs.
Alcorn will return the PDO at a future date to present the group with details on La Plaza’s signage and street furniture for the project’s outdoor café.
The retail space at 7863 Girard Ave. has had a long and troubled history. Bill Berkley, who previously owned Jack’s, went out of business July 31, 2009. It was later disclosed that one of Berkley’s employees had allegedly embezzled funds from him, a case that is still pending in court.
Following Berkley, Mike Viscuso, a nightclub mogul who owns properties in downtown San Diego and Hollywood, purchased the property and began remodeling it with grand plans to redevelop it as a nightclub with seven bars and three restaurants. He later abandoned those plans when the economy went south.
Redeveloping the site “has been a challenge for whomever owned it,” said Berkley, adding the multi-level, stepped-back design of the building makes it, “very difficult to get something to go in the back. [Redevelopment] probably would work for a restaurant like George’s (on Prospect), but it doesn’t work for a boutique dress shop, or something like that. I’m sure there’s somebody that will do something and overcome the negative impact of the physical layout. I wish them luck and hope they’ll be successful.”