La Plaza shopping center set for January opening in La Jolla

Owners working to ‘curate’ right mix of tenants for boutique shopping center

Construction on the former Jack’s La Jolla restaurant and nightclub complex is again moving at a steady pace, in anticipation of its planned January 2015 reopening as La Plaza La Jolla boutique shopping center.

It was announced early this summer that Catania coastal Italian-style restaurant will open in the prime, third-floor corner space, though representatives for building owner Davlyn Investments have been mum as to what businesses will occupy 21 other spaces in the three-story, 27,000-square-foot building at the corner of Wall Street and Girard Avenue.

During a tour of the building Sept. 10, Tara Meehan of Davlyn Investments assured that several national brand retailers have signed leases at La Plaza, and that Davlyn is in negotiations with other prospective tenants.

“There’s been a lot of interest,” Meehan said, noting that Davlyn Chief Operating Officer Jon Williams has “really stuck to his vision” for an upscale mix of tenants with a synergy that will make La Plaza a shopping/dining destination. He hopes to court a clientele that will linger and enjoy the ambiance.

“He’s looking for what is going to fit this building and fit La Jolla,” Meehan said, adding Williams has turned away some prospective tenants, while actively courting other businesses that fit his vision.

“He’s been using the word ‘curate’ a lot, because he’s really very selective,” Meehan said, noting Williams’ ideal tenants adjacent Catania are an upscale salon fronting Girard Avenue and possibly a wine/cognac and cigar bar fronting Wall Street.

“The property has a colored past,” added project representative Cindy Weigle, referencing the building’s former lack of accessibility and dim interior that left it almost completely vacant after Jack’s La Jolla closed in 2009. “I think he’s looking to make it right this time.”

To increase accessibility, Williams added an elevator and clock tower on the Girard Avenue side, by which all three levels can be accessed, and widened stairs and walkways.

Davlyn is hoping the building’s historic Spanish and Moroccan flourishes will also lure people into La Plaza.

San Diego-based Unique Stone Imports and Krista Stafford Interior Design strove to “complement the other historic Spanish influenced landmarks of La Jolla, while giving this project its own sophisticated interpretation of the style,” stated press material. The building is designed in the vein of 1920 Spanish Revival estate — from ceramic, inlaid steps to encaustic tile wall murals.

An entry fountain along Girard Avenue features embossed stoneware and turquoise ceramic tile.

Meehan said waiting for the custom tile, stone and woodwork to be delivered also delayed the project.

Catania owner Arturo Kassel, who also owns nearby Whisknladle restaurant and three Prepkitchen locations, said he will hold a soft opening in January and open Catania to the public ideally in early February. Kassel signed a 10-year lease at La Plaza with options to renew for up to 20 years.

“When we build restaurants, we’re in it for the long haul,” Kassel told La Jolla Light earlier this summer. “You have to be pretty confident and secure in your choice to commit to 10 years, but we feel great about it.”

Catania’s kitchen will include a wood-burning oven, rotisserie and grill. Bluemotif Architecture is designing the space, which Kassel said would be warm, but less “kitschy and crafty” than the décor at Whisknladle, a block away on Wall Street.

“Restaurants over the last couple years have started to look more and more alike, I’d even say homogeneous,” Kassel said. “We are going to challenge ourselves and our design team to break away from that and do something drastically different.”

Parking for La Plaza shoppers will be in the garage of the adjacent Brooks Brothers building. Valet parking will be available to the public on Girard Avenue.