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Imagining A Redeveloped Grossmont Center

LA MESA -- When the lease on the land under Grossmont Center expires in three years, city planning officials believe that market pressures will make a virtually complete redevelopment of the site inevitable.

It has been 50 years since Grossmont Center opened and, because it has remained the sales tax engine of the City of La Mesa for much of that time, it is understandable that both public officials and private citizens worry about what will become of "our mall.''

Much has changed in the five decades -- half the history of the city -- since the center first opened along Interstate 8. The city's population has doubled and the San Diego region has built out to a point where more sprawl into the canyons and deserts is unlikely.  That Grossmont is virtually wringed by I-8, and state roads 125 and 94 makes it an increasingly valuable property.

And much has changed in retailing in the last half-century as well. Using great swaths of land for single use retail may still make sense for regional malls like Fashion Valley, but the value of the land under Grossmont Center may be far greater with a more modern use that mixes retail with residential and office use. Boutiques are winning out over the big box mall retailing, at least for now, but a planned, centralized development model has been winning devotees in urban planning circles.

Perhaps as a way of alleviating fears of change, the San Diego Association of Governments, agreed to produce an animation that imagines what a mixed-use development might look like on the Grossmont Center foot print.

There are no formal plans for redeveloping Grossmont Center, but the issue is critical enough to city finances that preliminary meetings have been held with the family who will resume full control of the property when the center's lease expires. The city has a lot at stake in what becomes of Grossmont, but in the end, the property is privately held and the owners will largely determine how their property will be used.

The animation was first displayed by the City of La Mesa during its annual strategy planning meeting with the City Council members which took place Thursday, the 24th of March.  City Planning Director Bill Chopyk took the council through a concise but impressive history of the city, underscoring the almost constant changes that have marked its first century.

Given the kind of fast paced change that occurred in La Mesa as the San Diego region grew, it did not appear so far fetched to consider Grossmont Center undergoing the kinds of changes this animation suggests.



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Tags: City of La Mesa, Government, Grossmont Center, La Mesa Redevelopment


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Comment by John C Schmitz on March 28, 2011 at 5:25pm
Nice article Chris.  Too bad some people don't get it.
Comment by Scott H. Kidwell on March 27, 2011 at 7:24am
The insatiable desire by elected leaders for ever more revenue is made possible by a citizenry that wants ever more jobs, services and solutions to personal problems shifted to government.
Comment by David Stanley on March 26, 2011 at 11:27pm
Mr. Kane echoes much if not most of my cynicism regarding all things political. In and of itself, "Politics" is just fine. However, as soon as people become involved, well, you know, power, self importance, other people's money = corruption In nearly every instance it would seem. This "Power" brings with it doing things YOUR way and the ability and propensity to just ignore those who would desire something else whilst taking and using THEIR money. "They" are far too stupid to really have any idea what something should look like, etc.  Witness the La Mesa City Council, the Water District, most Department heads, et al. There are always requests for "input" but notice the results are Always how "They" wish it. Isnt that funny? So far as the video proposal looking wonderful, well, looks, again, awfully Vanilla to me and I am sure I am not alone. A "Facelift" is needed and would make "the old girl" spiffy again but then .... I suppose, whilst none of us will have any say in the matter might as well sit back and watch it happen and just "live with it", like it or not. Still have to shop, dont we?  David Stanley
Comment by Steven S. Kane on March 26, 2011 at 8:54pm
Once again, everything appears to be driven by the insatiable desire of government for more revenues!  Why can't land use decisions be based on serving the public interest rather than providing more tax income for bigger government and more pay and benefits for bureaucrats?  It may be that the community would be better served by using the land now occupied by Grossmont Center for purposes other than retail sale of goods, but, of course, that does not matter because the government people want more money.  Perhaps we should re-think the entire process.
Comment by chris shea on March 26, 2011 at 3:15pm
I think it looks wonderful. Even if it is just in the "what if" stage. I love it.
But I love Hillcrest, too and think it is utterly charming. Grossmont Center needs a face lift. All you have to do is go to Fashion Valley on a Saturday and compare the number of shoppers there. The atmosphere is important, and our poor old Grossmont Center could use some sprucing up. I go there often and have a very fond memory of buying a maternity dress there at Marston's when I was pregnant with my daughter-- who will be 45 this April. Where does the time go?
Good piece, Chris Lavin!
Comment by David Stanley on March 26, 2011 at 2:07pm
On the brighter side, however, I felt badly when NTC was returned to the City by the Navy. It had become a rather blighted area with the old barracks, etc. For years developers and contractors worked on the place and the result looks pretty good, overall. When the Grossmont operation is completed lets just hope it will be a jewel withing our jewel. We can miss what we lost but hopefully rejoice in what will be that found. Lets just hang in there!  David Stanley
Comment by La Mesa Today on March 26, 2011 at 1:53pm


I think tears would be premature here at this point. I tried in the article to say it as directly as possible, but this is not a proposal or an architect's dream. This was worked up by animators working as futurists, speculating on how what has been playing out around the country might manifest itself here. More, I'm sure to spur discussion, than to argue for this or this look or that mix. All of any future redo of the property will undoubtedly be prayed over by planning and zoning authorities and these things often have public discussions as well.

In the past, one only saw renderings like this when a project was already pretty fully hatched, in part because the cost of the renderings were so high and needed an architect and builder fully engaged. Today, drawings and animations can come at the "musings'' stage and that is clearly where this is at now. Sorry if I was less than clear in the piece -- the struggle for brevity sometimes leaves out nuance.

Thanks for your engagement,

Chris Lavin, Editor

Comment by David Stanley on March 25, 2011 at 8:40pm
Several things immediately leap to mind. I certainly smell the "anti-Walmart" rats creeping about here when the article discusses "redevelopment" of the Grossmont Centre mall.  Hmmm. I watched the video several times and really hate what I saw. The "Developers" will have removed pretty much all vestiges of our Village. Rather, what most of us are so proud of, but apparently not politicians and other chasers of the buck, will become just another upscale community. Gone will be our Mall, the very flavour of our downtown, the streets, shops and, well, everything. Much of the video looks like the Hillcrest area of San Diego - relatively modern and totally lacking in charm. I will weep for the loss but fear its inevitability owing to the loud and overbearing voices of politicians, architects with dollar signs in their eyes and developers, who stand to make the most money of all. And what will we have left? A vanilla shopping area where once stood a charming wee Village, much loved by MOST.  David Stanley

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