Developer Rick Caruso, shown at a Los Angeles Coliseum Commission meeting… (Ricardo DeAratanha, Los…)
Prominent Los Angeles real estate developer Rick Caruso is expected to build a large-scale retail and entertainment center in north San Diego County after acquiring a plot of land along Interstate 5 from a local utility.
Caruso said Thursday that he has agreed to buy a 48-acre parcel on Cannon Road in Carlsbad from San Diego Gas & Electric to be used for a future real estate development.
Terms of the sale were not revealed and Caruso did not say exactly what he hopes to build, but he is best known for his Grove shopping center in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles and his Americana at Brand retail and residential development in Glendale. Both are outdoor venues with movie theaters, grass and fountains.
"Our goal is to do something within what we do as a company," Caruso said.
His firm Caruso Affiliated will soon begin the design and approval process with local and state officials, he said. The parcel he is buying is directly east of Interstate 5 and abuts the southern edge of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon.
Caruso said he would seek opinions about what to build from local residents and would work with Carlsbad Strawberry Co. to preserve long-standing strawberry farming and other agricultural operations along Cannon Road. The land he is buying is designated in the city's general plan as eligible for tourism, recreational and commercial uses.
Caruso said he hoped to gain approvals from Carlsbad and the California Coastal Commission within 12 to 18 months and begin a two-year construction process after that.
North San Diego County is a prosperous area that is underserved when it comes to upscale stores, restaurants and recreation, he said. "There is a void of competition, as we see it."
The Carlsbad area is already home to Legoland California Resort, one of the state's largest theme parks, where a new hotel is being built for a summer 2013 opening. Carlsbad Premium Outlets mall has 90 stores selling discounted merchandise from popular brands.
Carlsbad Strawberry Co., which is near the colorful Flower Fields, has raised strawberries and other produce since 1948 and allows customers to pick their own berries in season.
Overhead power lines and an underground gas pipeline will remain in service on Caruso's site during and after construction, and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. will participate in planning the new development, the utility said.
"After carefully considering all potential options for this property, we have decided to move forward with selling it, pending regulatory approval," Vice President Pam Fair said.
Most of Caruso Affiliated's projects are in Los Angeles County, but the company is close to starting work on a coastal resort in Montecito, Caruso said. He said he expected to start razing the unoccupied former Miramar Hotel near Santa Barbara early next year.