Merchants Association signs lease on Prospect Street, prepares for Jan. 1 opening of ‘La Jolla Information Center’

By Pat Sherman

Following an intense four- to six-month search and lease negotiations, the La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA) board of directors unanimously approved a two-year lease on a space at 1162 Prospect Street (currently occupied by Alexander Salazar Fine Art).

The new 2,349-square-foot space, to be dubbed the La Jolla Information Center, will house the LJVMA offices, as well as the La Jolla Visitor Information Center, currently located at 7966 Herschel Ave.

The LJVMA has an option to renew the lease in two-year installments over the next decade, said the association’s board president, Phil Coller.

Though Coller declined to disclose the rent amount, he said it would be substantially more than the rent at its current, roughly 600-square-foot space at 7734 Herschel Ave. (which costs the association about $1,200 a month).

The merchants association was able to negotiate a rental amount below market value, Coller said, due to the shared vision of the lessor, Universal Boot Shops (of which La Jolla Cove Suites CEO and merchants association board candidate Krista Baroudi is a managing partner).

“(The owner is) very interested in assisting La Jolla develop its plan of becoming what it used to be, helping the merchants association help the community,” Coller said. “So they gave us a below market rate to help us.”

Coller said LJVMA will occupy about 30 to 40 percent of the space, while the remaining area will be used to provide information for tourists, residents and businesses. The center will also provide space for businesses to advertise and will sell La Jolla-themed merchandise that does not conflict with what is being sold by nearby retailers, such as panoramic aerial photographs of the Village.

“The purpose is to be as inclusive of the community (as possible); It’s not just for tourists but for residents and businesses as well,” he said. “We will in some way or form make available space for all nonprofits, like the (La Jolla) Music Society and the Athenaeum. They’ll all be promotable from that space.”

Coller said the rent would be paid in full by income from advertising and promotions, merchandising and a grant the LJVMA is applying for that the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau (ConVis) previously received to operate the Visitor Center.

LJVMA’s fulltime executive director, Sheila Fortune, as well as four part-time staff and 20 volunteers from the current Visitor Center will staff the new Information Center.

As of Dec. 31, Visitor Center employees will become employees of the merchants association, and ConVis will cease its partnership in the venture.

ConVis took over management of the Visitor Center from Promote La Jolla, the former business improvement district (BID)-funded merchants organization, after it folded several years ago.

The new space will require minimal physical adjustments. All planning, building and permit-securing services will be donated, with a plaque being erected at the center in recognition of the volunteers’ time and labor, Coller said.

Anyone with ideas on how to utilize the space as a comprehensive community information hub is asked to contact Sheila Fortune at

The center should be open no later than Jan. 1, with a potential soft opening reception in December.

For more information about the La Jolla Village Merchants Association, visit