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Bird Rock Longs to offer style, convenience

Developers of a new mini-Longs on the site where Sandpiper Plaza burned down more than six years ago, and more recently, where Seahaus luxury condominium complex had its sales office, have broken ground on redeveloping the site, which is currently being excavated to create underground parking.

“This will be a flagship store for Longs,” said George Ramstad, the company’s design manager. “It’s going to be very nice in terms of the quality of architecture, which is going to be mission style with stucco and clay tile roofs and wood windows. The idea of the architect was to create a building that was timeless, that will look like it’s been there for a long time even though it will be brand new.”

Project developer Colton Sudberry, Longs and the Bird Rock Community Council conducted extensive negotiations to ensure the pharmacy would be compatible with the existing character of Bird Rock’s commercial strip along La Jolla Boulevard. The community is presently involved in a comprehensive update of its planned district ordinance, which involves a blueprint for future commercial development.

Chuck Patton, Bird Rock Community Council president, said planners are satisfied with the compromises the pharmacy chain agreed to with the specifications on its Bird Rock project. “In general it was parking issues, and some apprehension about the drive-thru,” said Patton about the community’s concerns regarding the project. “There was also some apprehension about alcohol sales on site, being that it’s so close to Bird Rock Elementary School. But by a process of elimination, those issues have been dealt with pretty satisfactorily.

“Based on Longs’ reaction to our concerns - they really listened to what the community wanted -- the community really stood behind the project when it went before the Planned District Ordinance for review.”

Design adjustments at the Bird Rock Longs that were made to address community concerns included:

  • The garage entry/exit ramp shall be located as close to the corner of Midway and the alley to the east of the project as permitted by the city of San Diego traffic engineer.
  • The kiosk lane will be almost entirely screened from view with wall and landscape treatment, and shall share the same entry as the garage ramp to minimize customer points of ingress/egress to only two locations on the alley.
  • The loading area shall be designed so that delivery trucks will not need to back up on the alley.
  • An approximately 11-foot set back will be included in a portion of the west elevation on the south end of the building to allow more building articulation.
  • The landscape plan shall be designed in accordance with the Bird Rock Maintenance Assessment District plan for this area of Bird Rock and will include full sidewalks and street trees.
  • Building and site lighting shall be professionally designed to minimize light pollution from signs, window light leakage and exterior lighting.
  • No advertising will be posted in or on windows, doors or the exterior walls of the building.
  • Approximately five to 10 Longs’ employees will work at the site at any one time and all employees will be required to park in the project’s underground parking.
  • The hours of operation, including the kiosk, will be limited to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • The kiosk will only be available for pick-up of prescriptions. No ordering or pick-up of any other items will be permitted.
  • Floor space allocated for the sale of alcohol will be limited to less than 5 percent of the store merchandising area. 
  • All truck unloading and deliveries will be made only from the designated loading area. Smaller truck and van unloading will occur no more than five times per day, with the largest delivery trucks allowed to be 40-foot long and be permitted to deliver only twice weekly. All trucks making deliveries are required to turn off their engines while unloading.  
  • If requested by the property owners living immediately east of the project, the developer will construct a new fence/wall during project construction to more effectively separate the retail and residential uses, cut excess noise, suppress light and enhance security.

Colton Sudberry, senior vice president of development for Sudberry Properties Inc., which develops shopping centers, office buildings and condominiums, said Longs’ construction crews are redeveloping the site. “It just makes it easier for them to get it the way they want it,” Sudberry said. “Ultimately, we still own the building. But their construction crews are building it.”
Sudberry said the project will take about one year to complete, and it is scheduled to be open for summer 2008. He estimated construction costs at about $4 million, adding the project is considerably smaller than the standard 16,000-square-foot Longs store. “It’s 12,000 square feet with an underground garage which will accommodate more than 30 cars, substantially more than what’s required by code,” he said. “The community wanted to make sure there was plenty of parking on-site, and we wanted to make sure employees of the store can park in the garage, not up and down the street.”

Sudberry said Longs has a stable of contractors set up for building their pharmacies. “It’s pretty common in our business, for single-tenant buildings like this, for large sophisticated users to build their own buildings that we pay for,” he said.

Ramstad said a top architecture firm, Fehlman Labarre of San Diego, designed the project. He added that the project reflects the new concept Longs has for developing stores not located in malls. “It’s an example of the direction we’re going in the future for freestanding stores not part of a shopping center,” he said.

Bird Rock Longs will have alcohol, health and over-the-counter prescription drug departments, as well as cosmetic and beauty sections.

The new Bird Rock Longs is in between two existing stores in Pacific Beach on Mission Boulevard and on Pearl Street in La Jolla. “It will take some pressure off Longs’ existing stores,” said Sudberry, “and serve to fill a hole in the community so that people who live in Bird Rock don’t have to drive all the way to the Village or PB to get pharmaceuticals.”

Sudberry believes the new Longs will be an aesthetic asset. “It’s not a big box,” he said. “It’s more on a neighborhood scale with a water fountain out front, things you don’t see in front of other drugstores.”

“It’s our kind of neighborhood,” concluded Ramstad of Longs. “We do well in beach communities like Bird Rock.”