By Pat ShermanLa Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA) greeted with enthusiasm plans presented at its July 10 meeting for an upscale renovation of the building at Wall Street and Girard Avenue, which once housed Jack’s La Jolla restaurant and nightclub complex.
The 30,000-square-foot space, currently home only to a Panera Bread restaurant, has sat largely vacant since 2009, when it closed under the cloud of an employee embezzlement scandal. Merchants are hopeful its opulent, Moroccan-themed design will infuse new life into the La Jolla Village retail community.
Jon Williams of Davyln Investments, which purchased the building at auction late last year, presented the group with architectural drawings and artist renderings for the project.
“The Jack’s (owners), as you know, put a lot of improvements into the building — well, they called them improvements, but I think they’re quite the eyesore,” Williams said of existing design elements, from awnings to sidewalk shade structures. “We have to take all that out.”
Developers seek to woo boutique retail tenants, and possibly add a restaurant on the top floor, Williams said. Davlyn is in negotiations with three or four tenants, and Williams said he hopes others in the Village may be interested in relocating to the building.
Williams and other project representatives came to the LJVMA meeting to request that the association draft a letter to the City of San Diego in support of suspending a summer moratorium on public right-of-way impingements that typically accompany construction.
“We have plans to open Dec. 1 and that won’t be possible unless we’re able to start the demolition soon,” said Williams, who hopes to begin erecting scaffolding around the building as early as this week. Plans were submitted to the city July 5 and accepted shortly after.
Davlyn cancelled a presentation to the LJVMA several months ago, and Williams said Davlyn has not released renderings or plans until recently because of problems with the building — particularly its inaccessibility.
“We spent an awful lot of time and energy figuring out how we’re going to fix that,” Williams said.
Though board member Tom Brady and others suggested Davyln first present their request to La Jolla advisory committees such as the Planned District Ordinance, Traffic and Transportation and the La Jolla Community Planning Association, LJVMA Executive Director Sheila Fortune said waiting on those groups’ approval would delay construction by at least another month.
In its 25 years in business, Carmel Valley-based Davyln Investments has primarily focused on ownership and operation of office and apartment buildings. This is their first retail venture, Williams said.
“It’s a spectacular location,” he said. “You just don’t find opportunities to acquire buildings like this.”
Williams assured the LJVMA board that construction would not interrupt parking or traffic on Girard Avenue or Wall Street (the building maintains 113 spaces in the adjacent Brooks Brothers garage). During construction, the building will be covered with white plastic and a white plywood barrier. A six-foot-wide plywood tunnel will be erected along the sidewalks on Girard Avenue and Wall Street to shield passersby. Dumpsters will be located within the project and be emptied early mornings.
Though an existing canvas canopy will remain atop the building’s center courtyard during construction to block noise, board member Nancy Warwick asked that Davlyn also consult with the Athenaeum Music and Arts Library across Wall Street to assure that construction noise won’t disrupt the Athenaeum’s summer concerts.
In the end, the board voted to send a letter to the city so that construction can begin posthaste, provided that LJVMA serve as a liaison between the developer and any adjacent merchants who express concerns with the project as it progresses.
In other LJVMA news
Trolley update: David Thornton with Old Town Trolley noted that the propane-powered Trolley that is coming to the Village would include a final “sweep” each day, for which no tickets will be sold. It will go to every stop to assure nobody is left waiting without a ride.
The trolley operator is considering a stop on Silverado Street, near the Chase bank.
Coller said the LJVMA has 150,000 maps of La Jolla that they could provide Old Town Trolley to give to passengers
“That would be wonderful,” Thornton said. “Our next goal once we get the tour up and running is to work with you on promoting the businesses.”