Opinion / Guest Commentary / Our Readers Write:
Empty storefronts are bad for business. And bad for the communities they serve.
We moved to Bird Rock nearly one year ago from the Bay Area and have loved the small town feel of our new community. We love the walkability to shops and restaurants, and the spectacular ocean views. But in our year here, we’ve also seen more barren storefronts and struggling merchants.
While I can’t magically make new businesses locate here, I do have some ideas for generating a more businesses that will engage locals and visitors alike to our charming village by the sea. It will take the energy and creativity of our local community, businesses and landlords to make these changes but all are possible.
Before moving here from Northern California, I was deeply involved in improvement projects to increase both foot traffic and engagement at a local community center. From this experience, I started exploring how liveability and place-making strategies can transform and energize communities.
Below are 10 ideas for the Bird Rock strip of La Jolla Boulevard to attract new businesses and more activate street life.
1. Develop a Scripps Urgent Care outpost. It’s a 25-minute slog up to Scripps Medical Center for those of us living in South La Jolla and North Pacific beach. A Bird Rock clinic would significantly reduce traffic into and out of La Jolla and make it easier for residents to get general health care services. A side benefit is more neighborhood activity for our local merchants.
2. Open a La Jolla Library pocket branch. We need a small library to serve this community. Our family-centric neighborhood would benefit from children’s story hours, an afterschool study place and a selection of periodicals and comfy couches for seniors. To reduce book collection needs, residents could order books and cds from the main library and have them delivered to our pocket branch.
3. Create a culinary incubator. In my old community, an industrial kitchen called Kitchentown opened for local food start-ups. It also provided a welcoming space for the community to gather over fresh goods and pastries from the small batch merchants using the shared kitchen.
4. Expand Wayfarer Bakery. Speaking of baked goods, our local baker is definitely ready for a major expansion. The perfect location would be the empty restaurant space in the mini mall at Forward Ave. With its larger footprint both indoors and out, Wayfarer could handle many more baguette and scone enthusiasts from Bird Rock and beyond.
5. Create a play space. One thing seriously lacking here are playgrounds for little ones. Let’s convert the parking lot in back of Seaside Café into a pocket park. Playgrounds bring parents and seniors together to enjoy the outdoors and the antics of kids sliding, swinging and dangling from colorful equipment on a padded surface. This play space would add more street life and benefit all the small cafes on the strip.
6. Turn empty storefronts into temporary art galleries for local artists. If we could attract at least three galleries to our strip, we could also create an Art Walk destination for wandering in and out and sipping wine at our wine bars and shops. Evening street life makes our streets safer for all.
7. Pop Up Retail. Small retailers are reluctant to commit to expensive rents before they see customer demand. Let’s invite some of our favorite clothing and gift shops from North Park, Hillcrest and other trendy neighborhoods to open rotating pop-ups for three months each. This would give them a chance to meet our shop-friendly community and give us some new merchants to discover. Our own Mimi and Red is a perfect example of a hip shop that would also benefit from some more company!
8. More food, please. We need more dining choices for local dining. How about sushi or Thai food? We could also use a yummy smoothies/juice bar with all the fitness clubs on our three block La Jolla Boulevard strip. And while we’re at it, let’s encourage the little liquor store at the corner of Forward Street to upgrade to a cozy, curated market where we can pick up some fresh fruits and veggies without schlepping to Pacific Beach. It’s ridiculous that CVS serves as our “food desert” minimart!
9. Let’s get potted. We need a cozy plant store filled with succulents and other easy to grow greenery. Plants are the perfect last minute gift, the gift that keeps on giving and fun spot for hanging out. Plant stores create community — witness Green Gulch in Pacific Beach or Flora Grub Gardens in San Francisco.
10. Innovators hub. What start-up wouldn’t like to brag about lunch breaks that include surfing and beach parties! We have an amazing location for creative types of all kinds. Let’s invite independent ad agencies, graphic designers and tech start-ups to rent space in a larger building with shared coffee and break areas for natural collaboration. Let’s create the next generation of WeWork. One that actually works!
These are just a few of ideas for re-energizing Bird Rock that would benefit our current merchants and residents and make our community even more vibrant and engaging.
— Mimi Sells is a marketing/branding specialist who moved to Bird Rock in 2019. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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