Carrier Johnson + Culture’s Claudia Escala addresses the packed room about Downtown mixed-use projects. | Image by Carrie Rossenfeld

Event Coverage – October 2018

Carrie Rossenfeld Event Coverage

From SoCal Real Estate’s October 2018 issue:

Mixed-Use Development Is a Plus for San Diego

At CREW San Diego’s recent lunch program, “Mixed-Use Development Re-Defined,” moderator Andrew Malick, director of Malick Infill Development, said the old definition of mixed-use as a five-story wood-frame apartment building on top of freestanding retail is not the modern definition of the term. Today, mixed-use projects are both vertical and horizontal and can include a wide variety of uses, including office, retail, residential, and community-oriented purposes. One panelist, David McCullough, a principal with McCullough Landscape Architecture Inc., suggested that even light industrial could be a realistic additional use.

Malick stressed the point that mixed use doesn’t have to make life miserable with increased traffic if planned correctly. “Make sure you have the right type of development and are distributing the properties correctly throughout [the development],” he said.

Gary Levitt, owner of Seabreeze Properties LLC, presented two North County San Diego mixed-use projects his firm is developing: North City in San Marcos, adjacent to Cal State San Marcos, and Merge 56 in Carmel Valley. North City features student housing, market-rate apartments, retail, and a 25,000-square-foot restaurant, Urge Gastropub, that created a sense of place for the project. Merge 56 takes 40 acres of land approved for retail and apartments and instead creates a neighborhood of single-family homes and apartments with a core of retail and community uses in the middle.

Claudia Escala, principal architect with Carrier Johnson + Culture, spoke next about Downtown mixed-use projects her firm has been designing, including Park & Market, whose uniqueness comes from UC San Diego coming to Downtown to take space there. The residential, office, restaurant, and retail uses highlight how a dense environment can work well.

Escala also spoke about Ballpark Village, a project adjacent to Petco Park that’s on the boards. Among other uses, the vertical mixed-use project will feature residential space and connectivity through bridges and will have amenities like rooftop terraces.

McCullough said mixed-use is properly defined as three or more uses with no more than 60 percent of the space devoted to any one use. He also said that mixed-use developers must approach suburban and urban mixed-use projects differently and pointed out that mixed-use projects should be thought of as 3D, not 2D.

McCullough added that open-space elements in mixed-use projects are extremely important to consider. It’s also paramount, he said, not to force uses down people’s throats. “Don’t guess what millennials want. Just create beautiful things, and then the amenities don’t matter because people will figure out a way to use it.”

Modular Could Be the Disruptor of MF Construction

Modular construction is catching on as a method of building that saves time and creates efficiencies for developers, according to Humphreys & Partners’ recent fifth annual Mid-Year Webinar. Greg Faulker, president; Walter Hughes, director of design; and Daniel Gehman, studio director in the firm’s Newport Beach, California, office, encouraged modular design and construction in some — but not all — cases, and Gehman said the method “could be the disruptor of multifamily construction.”

Hughes presented the firm’s design for Pier 2, a co-working, co-housing modular project for Manhattan’s waterfront. The mixed-use project features full-service bike stations and an upper-platform landing pad for deliveries and travelers that is energy-efficient. “Rooftop amenities are a norm today,” Hughes said, calling the design the “answer to what is next.”

Gehman said, “Most people in many markets want modular multifamily. More people are looking for it.” One of the benefits to doing modular construction, he said, is that once it is perfected, developers can replicate the design over and over rather than having a framing crew reinvent the wheel in each market.

While the time savings in modular construction is hard to calculate, Gehman said that, properly managed, it can shave months off a construction schedule. However, he noted, modular construction is not for every project or every person. The three golden rules of modular design are: 1) aim for a minimum number of maximum-sized boxes; 2) model wants to be straight, flat, and rational; 3) you need a highly disciplined team. He added that switching from modular construction to stick construction is fine, but not the reverse.

Ultimately, the pros of modular are labor-rate savings, time savings, price certainty, better quality, safety, security, and reduced noise. The cons are higher transportation and installation costs, a need for early decision-making, expensive front-end loading, and use of 20 percent more material than stick construction.

Modular developments like 550 27th St. in Oakland, California, are becoming more desirable. | Courtesy a representative of Humphreys & Partners Architects LP