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Saks building might best be reincarnated as public space

A prime piece of La Jolla Village sits empty, aging in a very unflattering fashion. Besides the fact that the design of the building lends no beauty to the local area, its current state has left this once-proud structure looking unkempt and, frankly, abandoned.

Finding a tenant for this site magnifies La Jolla’s economic problems. The building is too small for a large tenant, unless some very large merchant, like Saks, is willing to sacrifice profits for the “prestige” of a La Jolla address. Is there enough parking in the Village to assure a merchant that the free spenders needed for a successful venture might even get in? How will a large store impact small, independent local merchants? And will a store that stays open until nine most evenings hurt the many local restaurants?

Indeed, we have our doubts. What we see is expensive real estate, limited square footage that may not sustain a tenant’s investment, and a façade that will probably require millions of dollars to renovate. Saks’ failure may say more about doing business in La Jolla than we may want to admit.

Because this building’s vacancy is as much of an issue for the public as it is for the owners and their agents, perhaps it is time to look at a “public” solution for this space.

For a moment, imagine that the city of La Jolla had its administration building on this site. Or imagine a small business center, a boutique convention center, if you will, able to host small-scaled meetings in our Village. Imagine a plaza on the site. Imagine a fountain or a building that is new and exciting, something that would become an iconic symbol of La Jolla.

The building as it now exists probably will be leased. But is there any way this site might find new life as a public facility? Local architects designing a public project, employing local contractors, serving every La Jollan’s needs. . .

Of course, this is just a dream. But then, why not dream? Dreams like this can become reality if we, the people of La Jolla, want it to become a reality. And almost anything is better than what we currently have on Wall Street.

Let’s dare to think big and create something special in the heart of La Jolla for ourselves and our children. Perhaps a Geisel Center or a Jacobs Plaza would be just the civic tonic to inspire La Jolla for generations.