By Pat Sherman
A cornerstone Village revitalization project first proposed more than two decades ago has inched one step closer to fruition — receiving the necessary approval of all 10 Prospect Street property owners immediately adjacent the project site.
The revived Belvedere Promenade project would replace an existing one-way section of Prospect Street between Herschel and Girard avenues with a pedestrian promenade where people could enjoy outdoor dining and gaze out over the ocean and Ellen Browning Scripps Park. The multi-million dollar project, conceived by La Jolla architect Jim Alcorn, became an official component of the La Jolla Community Plan in 2004, though the question of how to fund it has largely kept it from moving forward.
Alcorn was successful in renewing interest in the project last year, garnering unanimous approval of his latest concept from the La Jolla Community Planning Association, La Jolla Town Council and La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA).
is overseeing the project, and will help identify public and private funding for its construction, and assist with grant writing.
Architect Paul Benton, Alcorn’s partner in La Jolla-based
Alcorn & Benton Architects
, said the project could benefit from community development block grant (CDBG) funds, which are property taxes made available for community development projects. The money is redistributed at the discretion of local governments.
“Sherri Lightner’s office has offered any assistance they can in applying for those grants,” Benton said, though noting that they have become increasingly difficult to obtain. “There’s other sources of grants that are possible and we’re getting some favorable responses in those areas as well.”
However, donations from private citizens and businesses will still be key to fund the project, he said.
Benton said the most recent project concept was submitted to the city about six months ago, and has been reviewed by the fire marshal, as well as the city’s planning and engineering departments.
“I feel that we’ve largely overcome the larger technical issues with the city, and the city’s about ready to issue their final letter of agreement, which, of course, is a tremendous step,” Benton said. “We don’t have it until we have it, but I have confidence it’s on the way.”
Benton said a minor issue related to fire safety and access to the buildings that had to do with the configuration of the street and retaining wall has been resolved.
“We’ve got the preliminary concept worked out to a degree that we know what to expect, and how to (execute) the final design when the time is right.”
The most recent concepts for the project include the addition of an ocean-view overlook, traffic calming measures, reconfigured parking and outdoor café seating.
“I want it to be a consistent and coherent design, in which all the parts seem to relate well to each other so that you’re in an identifiable area, rather than having a hodgepodge of café seating or landscape,” Benton said. “I want it to be uniform.”
LJVMA Board President Phil Coller confirmed that the organization received “no- objection letters” from all 10 adjacent property owners between Girard and Herschel avenues, something he said the city will require prior to permits being granted.
“We thought it prudent and a positive move to get the letters before going too far with this process,” he said. “We want to build consensus and a sense of community. La jollans must buy in to what happens to the La Jolla infrastructure.”
Benton said approvals were also forthcoming from the owner of 1020 Prospect St., the building where a 54-room boutique hotel has been proposed (which is kitty-corner to the project site), as well as the operators of the proposed hotel (Alcorn & Benton are the architects hired to design the hotel).
“It means the (property owners) are in agreement with us proceeding, with trying to get the necessary permits and money and complete the design and construct the Belvedere,” Coller said.
Coller said the LJVMA hopes the project will become a model for the type of public-private partnerships aimed at revitalizing communities that Mayor Bob Filner championed while running for office.
“He wants to do this, well, here’s a community that has all the property owners signed off on it,” he said.