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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.