Kristen Victor, president of nonprofit beautifulPB, said she’s been told by redevelopment project architect Carrier Johnson + Culture that two businesses formerly in the mall — Staples and San Diego County Credit Union (SDCCU) — will be returning along with the addition of Trader Joe’s relocating from 1211 Garnet Ave., a Walgreens pharmacy and PetSmart.
Two businesses previously in the mall, Empire Beauty Supply and Salon and Daisy Cleaners, have moved across the street to the property that once housed Pacific Coast Bicycles at 1637 Garnet Ave.
Three other businesses formerly in the Staples mall — Little Caesers and Postal Annex — have left and will not be returning. CVS has an existing pharmacy across the street in the Vons shopping center.
“We learned that the project has been in design for three years,” said Victor about the project, which some feel has been shrouded in secrecy.
“Some feel that developers should have been more involved in engaging the community in this project,” Victor said.
One of those disappointed by how the Staples redevelopment has been handled is Brian Curry, chairman of the Pacific Beach Planning Group (PBPG).
Curry dashed off a letter to city planners, noting, “An applicant for a 60,000-square-foot retail center in the heart of Pacific Beach (Ingraham and Garnet) was not required to appear at the PBPG or engage in any community outreach. This situation results in an incredible disconnect on forward planning. It seems planning policy should be revisited to guarantee that the public and PBPG is consulted on any new development in Pacific Beach, especially with regard to major projects.”
Victor said there were two reasons why the Staples redevelopment was not required by the city to come before PBPG for public review.
“Only those projects on the west side of Ingraham Street have to go through coastal review, and this project is on the east side,” she said. “Also because they’re (developers) knocking down the entire building and rebuilding with the same structure.”
Vicki Piazza of Carrier Johnson + Culture said the initial idea was to keep half of the building space at the Staples mall and rebuild the other half, which had to be abandoned.
“The building, built in 1962, just wasn’t equipped to handle modern big-box retail,” Piazza said, adding leases have not been signed with all five prospective tenants.
Piazza said the building will not be completely rebuilt to almost the exact specifications of the older building, but slightly smaller.
The architect said Staples has said that its new prototype store which is going into the rebuild is as much as 2,000 feet smaller than its previous space. She said that space could become available for other uses, though Staples could very well find a use for it.
Victor said the latest news about the Staples mall rebuild is a positive development.
The fact that there is 2,000 extra square feet of space possibly available, Victor said, means “that may allow us to develop that as a community group office to be used by Discover PB (BID), PBPG, PB Town Council and other civic and school groups. We’re talking about some sort of civic engagement place, a place with seating for meetings.”
Victor said a proposed Decobike bikeshare station planned to go in on the corner of Ingraham Street and Garnet Avenue could possibly be “retooled” so that it could cater to bicycle enthusiasts.
“We’re talking about possibly creating a bike shed which people could use to store and repair their bikes which could be part of the bike path that goes through PB,” Victor said.
Chris Olson, a member of both beautifulPB and the PBPG, said having community and bike centers in the middle of PB’s business district would “be like a dream come true.”
Olson said there is also talk of doing work on the stormdrains in that same area to prevent runoff from polluting the bayfront ecosystem.
Reconstruction on the Staples rebuild is expected to be completed by March 2015.
“There will be two months after that for companies to go in and do tenant improvements before opening up in May 2015,” Victor said.
There is one more thing the PB community appears to want done with the Staples project.
“We are working with the city to not let this happen again where a project this large — and this significant — does not have any community engagement,” Victor said.