‘Warwick’s 2.0’: Local investors buy Chase Bank property on La Jolla’s Girard Avenue

A group of investors banded together to buy the Chase Bank property at 7777 Girard Ave.
A group of investors banded together to buy the Chase Bank property at 7777 Girard Ave.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

In what some are calling a “Warwick’s 2.0,” a group of investors has banded together to buy the Chase Bank property on Girard Avenue in La Jolla.

Escrow closed July 26, and in coming months, the group will decide whether to renovate the building or demolish it and rebuild, and how it should be used.

Chase has a lease on the property at 7777 Girard through November 2023, so the team will work until then to develop the plans.

“The idea is to buy properties in The Village that are old and dated and help reinvest and redevelop in La Jolla,” said investor Jack McGrory, who noted that many of the investors (himself among them) are the same who rallied to buy the Warwick’s bookstore building last year to preserve the iconic Girard Avenue store. “The motivation is the same as with Warwick’s — to make La Jolla better. It’s Warwick’s 2.0.”

“A lot of people like the idea of reinvesting in The Village,” McGrory said. “This building is 60 years old, it doesn’t maximize the space it has available, so there is a lot of upside to redevelopment. It could be much more attractive.”

One option is to construct a mixed-use building with retail and residential units. McGrory said discussions were being held with potential tenants, though he declined to identify them.

“We’re getting interest from national retailers,” he said. “La Jolla has a great reputation, and when people see that The Village is getting the redo it needs, there is going to be a lot more interest.”

The building project would complement the ongoing work by the nonprofit Enhance La Jolla to improve the streetscape of Girard Avenue, McGrory said.

“The idea is to buy properties in The Village that are old and dated and help reinvest and redevelop in La Jolla.”

— Jack McGrory

The effort to buy the property started 10 weeks ago when an offer came in for it, according to La Jolla real estate broker Steve Avoyer, a member of the investors group who also was involved in the Warwick’s deal. Bird Rock residents Steve and Kathy Bettles have had a ground lease on the property for almost 50 years, Avoyer said.

“They have been leasing it to a variety of tenants,” Avoyer said. “An offer was made for $9 million, and the owner sent the offer to the Bettleses,” saying that if they could match it, they could buy it. The property was owned by three family trusts, all from out of state.

Kathy Bettles said there was concern about what would be done with the property should someone else buy it, so the Bettleses opted to try to match the offer.

They were unable to come up with the funds on their own, so they contacted Avoyer, real estate broker Rick Sparks and others. “We put our heads together and thought it was a good property, so we offered to help them so they could accept the offer,” Avoyer said.

The Bettleses are part of the investment group that now owns the property.

“We knew this group of people and what they could bring to the table and what they could do for La Jolla,” Kathy said. “We knew they would do something to enhance The Village. It’s a key piece of property, right in the middle of things. There is a lot that can be done there. We saw how they did this for Warwick’s and were confident they could do the same thing here.”

In February 2021, Warwick’s owner Nancy Warwick was in a similar situation. Her longtime landlord had received an unsolicited $8.3 million cash bid to buy the bookstore’s building at 7812 Girard. Warwick, who had been negotiating a new lease, was given 15 days to beat the offer or face an uncertain future with a new landlord.

About three dozen community members, most of them from La Jolla, quickly pooled their resources and bought the building. Then they gave Warwick a 10-year lease with two five-year renewal options.

The Bettleses said they support the idea of redeveloping the Chase property into mixed use. “We don’t know what is going to happen, but we hope for mixed use because we think we have to get more housing for people,” Kathy said.

“That intersection [Girard and Silverado Street] has some of the highest pedestrian and vehicular counts in La Jolla,” Avoyer said. “We want to add to the cool things on that street and make it conducive to a village atmosphere. That’s the game plan.” ◆