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Work resumes on Chart House

After a several-year hiatus due to litigation, the remodeling of the former Chart House in La Jolla has resumed, causing consternation to some who fear historical aspects of the 5,500-square-foot building might be lost.

But not to worry, says property owner Don Allison, the remodel will spare the former Chart House’s antiquities and the lawsuit is settled.

“All I’m doing is remodeling — the same thing George’s did,” said Allison who owns the 1270 Prospect St. site, which is leased to Chart House’s Texas-based parent company, Landry’s Restaurants Inc.

It’s not clear yet what Landry plans to put in the remodeled space. A spokeswoman for the company had not returned calls by press time.

In 2007, George’s At The Cove at 1250 Prospect St. underwent a $2.5 million architectural update of its look and feel.

The former Chart house is on the site of La Jolla’s famed Green Dragon Colony, which opened in 1894 and became a hotbed for artists, novelists, composers, and others who invigorated the seaside community during its early history. Although the last traces of the colony were knocked down by 1949, some artifacts remain in odd places — such as a fireplace from one cottage, which found its way into the now-defunct Chart House restaurant.

That fireplace, and at least one other historic feature, is about all that remains of the original Chart House building now being redeveloped. “The Chart House partially demolished the existing building and then they stopped: The cost came in higher than they anticipated,” noted Allison. “They stopped doing their work, and then they stopped paying rent. We said, ‘You’ve got to pay rent.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So we went on for several years with a lawsuit that was finally heard and we prevailed.”

Those vestigial historical elements of the Chart House are worth preserving, insists John Bolthouse, executive director of the La Jolla Historical Society.

“Our chief concern is that the original chimney from Anna Held’s Green Dragon Colony and the beam that had some German inscription in it will be saved,” he said. “Mr. Allison has assured us that, not only are they going to be saved, but that the beam and the chimney are going to be incorporated into the design of the new restaurant that would be accessible and viewable by the public.”

Bolthouse added much of the structure of the original Chart House restaurant built in the ‘70s isn’t considered historical but will be missed nonetheless.

“It did have a lot of fondness with the community,” he said. “It will be a shame to see it go.”

Bolthouse added the historical society “was a bit taken back” that it was not notified that work on the Chart House remodel had resumed.

Allison said Landry is handling the remodel.

“We have a contract with them and they have the right to open a restaurant,” he said. “They have lots of different chains they could put in there. We (landlord) don’t have to approve it. We can’t say: You can’t do that.”

Allison, who’s been the landlord for the property since 1992, said all necessary permits and approvals for the restaurant remodel have been obtained.

“There’s no mystery here,” he said. “Check with the city of San Diego, the Coastal Commission. We got those years ago.”