Constructing a commercial project in downtown La Jolla is roughly comparable to buying an ice cream cone in Carmel before Clint Eastwood was elected mayor.
La Jollans--organized as Ban Large Office Buildings (BLOB)--have succeeded in virtually banning office and commercial development on streets such as Girard Avenue and Prospect Street in the picturesque coastal community that is at once a part of the city of San Diego and a distinct entity.
This weekend's opening of Wall Street Plaza at the southeast corner of Wall Street and Girard Avenue culminates nearly six years of planning, negotiation and just plain hard work by developer Samuel J. (Sandy) Kahn.
Construction of the $10-million, 33,000-square-foot office/retail complex began a year ago with the demolition of the 73-year-old W. C. Sheppard Building, which most recently housed the La Jolla branch of the Walker Scott Department Store.
But the Wall Street Plaza story dates back to 1981, when Kahn, president of La Jolla-based Kent Holdings, acquired the property and drew up plans for a modern office building with a steel and reflective glass skin.
He obtained all the necessary approvals, including those from the La Jolla Town Council and the California Coastal Commission and was ready to begin construction early in 1982.
The department store changed his plans when Walker Scott management decided to remain open until the lease expired in January, 1985.
Meanwhile, BLOB was formed, quickly producing a petition with more than 12,000 signatures calling for a moratorium on new development. A moratorium ordinance was passed Oct. 12, 1983 that permitted construction of projects approved before its enactment. The moratorium was lifted Dec. 12, 1984.
Defined Village Flavor
Kahn, along with Mark Fehlman of the architectural firm of Austin Hansen Fehlman/Group, went back to the proverbial drawing board with his project.
"We started from the beginning, with our first step to define exactly what is that special La Jolla village flavor," Kahn said. "We found a great deal of hand-troweled stucco, intricate tile work, arches, long breezeways, trellises and domed rooftops."
The redesigned project incorporated such elements, found in buildings like the La Jolla Women's Club, the La Valencia Hotel, Bishop's School and the public library. The Spanish-Mediterranean design that Fehlman and his associate, Eric Naslund, produced features salmon-colored stucco walls.
The three-story structure surrounds a central atrium courtyard with extensive landscaping and a floor of more than 3,000 pieces of tile arranged in a radial design.
Two arcades lead to the courtyard from both Girard and Wall streets, while each level offers open breezeways and arched passages. Retail space surrounding the atrium area is reserved for boutiques and similar businesses.
"The arcade is inviting and passers-by are drawn in to browse through the shops in the atrium area," Fehlman explained. "We tried to identify the pedestrian patterns La Jolla already has and tie into them."
Landscaping was by Ron Wigginton and Andy Spurlock of Land Studio. The general contractor was Ninteman Construction Co., San Diego.