La Plaza moving toward possible January 2015 opening, ‘La JollaOpoly’ bidding war begins

La Plaza constructionBy Pat Sherman

During the La Jolla Village Merchants Association’s (LJVMA) May 14 meeting at the Cuvier Club, the group received an update on the La Plaza La Jolla shopping complex construction, discussed a program to use volunteers to clean the streets of La Jolla and learned about several new businesses that have opened in the Village (see photos).

Responding to questions about the La Plaza La Jolla boutique shopping complex being developed at the corner of Wall Street and Girard Avenue, Jon Williams, CEO of Davlyn Investments — which purchased the property at auction in 2012 — said none of La Plaza’s tenants would likely open before January 2015, at the earliest (the project was originally slated to open in December of 2013). The building was left mostly vacant after Jack’s La Jolla restaurant and nightclub complex closed there in 2009.

“We’re really very patient,” Williams said. “We have a very specific goal in mind. It may take us a little longer to get there but ultimately the payoff for everybody (will be greater). …

“We could have built the building probably twice over by now if we had accepted anything and just wanted to (finish), but that’s not what we’re going for,” he added. “We’re trying to do something really unique, and much more interesting.”

Williams said recent delays in Dempsey Construction’s remodel of the roughly 17,000-square-foot, three-level building are due to challenges with its infrastructure.

“The amount of additional infrastructure type improvements that we ran into was, even for us, who’ve done a lot of construction, surprising,” he said. “This project, as you know, has had a lot of problems in years past, (including) accessibility issues.”

Asked by LJVMA board Vice President Mark Krasner how many tenants have been secured, Williams said Davlyn is in “various stages of commitments for about two-thirds (to) half of the building.”

“We have a number of stores that want to open by Oct. 15 (but) we haven’t decided if that’s a good idea or not,” Williams said. “The issue is whether or not it’s wise to have significant improvements going on in half of the building while (another) half is open.”

Williams declined to state which retailers have confirmed to lease space in La Plaza. “Timing is extremely important, as you know,” he said. “You don’t want to announce too early.

“It’s not a matter of if, but when we open … and who we open with,” he added.

Williams did say a third-level restaurant tenant is eager to announce their involvement.

“I would be surprised if, within a month, they haven’t already announced,” he said.

LJVMA board members voted to write a letter to the City of San Diego recommending that the city waive its usual moratorium on summertime construction for La Plaza, so that work on the project can continue posthaste.

A white wood partition around the site will remain up until the end of construction,

Williams said, noting that exterior stuccoing will begin in the next month.

In other LJVMA news

Grant money approved:

LJVMA Executive Director Sheila Fortune announced that the LJVMA will receive $46,900 in Economic Development and Tourism Support (EDTS) grant funding from the city for fiscal year 2014-2015 (the merchants group applied for $70,000). The money will be distributed to the organization on a quarterly basis.

Bike-sharing vigilance:

Fortune noted that the city’s new bike-sharing program proposes 14 rental kiosks in La Jolla that will mostly be located on sidewalks or within street parking spaces.

“Keep in mind that the bike-sharing programs, the car-sharing program and the electric-vehicle program are all coming in at the same time,” Fortune said. “You need to make sure that you stay educated and aware of where those are going … so they all work together without overwhelming the Village or taking away a lot of space.”

LJVMA board President Claude-Anthony Marengo said he is not in favor of the program taking away street parking. He said bike kiosks would be better located in street spaces painted yellow or red, if the city’s traffic and engineering departments would agree to it.

Regaining revenue:

LJVMA board members are still grappling with how to ascertain which businesses have paid for a city-issued business tax certificate (formerly business license), a portion of which funds the LJVMA’s efforts to boost business in the Village. Fortune said LJVMA’s fact-finding mission has other San Diego business improvement district groups conducting their own inventories to regain lost funds.

“We’re even looking at getting a grant for some college students this summer to help us canvas all of our businesses so we can really get a handle on this, because there’s a lot of money that is not being collected or distributed,” Fortune said.

The information will be reported to the city treasurer’s office, which will seek payment from non-compliant businesses.

“We’re operating on shoestrings when we could do so much more,” Marengo added of the lost revenue, which he said the LJVMA could use to hire a person to oversee cleaning the streets of the Village, and to take inventory of items that need to be addressed, such as maintenance of the LJVMA’s donor benches and plants and trees in the common area.

Fortune said she has reached out to an organization that offers employment to adults with developmental challenges to “possibly do some sidewalk cleanup.” The volunteers would wear a vest identifying their affiliation with the LJVMA.

Game spaces up for bid:

Bidding opened for businesses wishing to procure one of 60 spots on the LJVMA’s Monopoly-style “La JollaOpoly” board game, which will raise money for the merchants group and its efforts.

About 1,500 copies of the game are being produced, and will be available for sale at the La Jolla Village Information Center at 1162 Prospect St. and at Village businesses by the start of the summer tourist season. Bids will be accepted until Friday, May 30.

The game will include a variety of business categories, so that it is not all dominated by one type of business, Fortune said.

Next meeting:

The LJVMA will meet 8:30 a.m. June 11 at the Cuvier Club, 7776 Eads Ave.,