One of downtown San Diego’s last-developable super-sized blocks, located in East Village, is perfect for a tech superpower. Such is the logic behind the famed Navarra family’s latest project: The SuperBlock@I.D.E.A. District.
The multi-phased development seeks to turn a 2.75-acre area — bounded by E, F, 14th and 15th streets on a rare double-wide block — into a creative office campus for a technology firm that needs to expand quickly. It starts with the $25 million conversion of two former Jerome’s Furniture warehouses into a two-story office, designed by BNIM, with 50,000 square-foot floors. It culminates with a potential 17-story, 450,000 square-foot office tower next door. The tower project cost was not disclosed.
As far as amenities go, the warehouse conversion includes an underground parking garage. The developer is also providing ample outdoor areas in old alleyways. Plus the block includes its own food and beverage option — the recently completed Punch Bowl Social, offering 24,000-square feet of eats, drinks and millennial-friendly diversions.
Navarra Properties, created by the family behind Jerome’s Furniture, has owned the land and other neighboring city blocks for decades. It was one of the key players in the East Village master-planned community known as Makers Quarter, although it’s not working with the quarter’s development team, Lankford & Associates and HP Investors, on the SuperBlock project. Makers Quarter lies within the 35-block I.D.E.A. District, an arts and innovation region conceived in 2011 by developers Pete Garcia and David Malmuth.
For the SuperBlock property, Navarra is ideally seeking a commitment from a single tenant that would occupy the low-rise office building now and grow into the tower later. The warehouse conversion will take around 18 months, does not require city approvals beyond standard building permits and will be built with direction from the tenant, said Mark Navarra, who runs the real estate investment and management company.
The thinking, he said, is that a Bay Area tech firm, or local cybersecurity or defense business that is bursting at the seams can have their very own, custom-built campus in downtown’s urban core.
“The campus setting, with multiple phases all a part of one project in the downtown area, is very unique,” Navarra said. “A lot of these tech companies are growing really fast and one of their priorities … is the speed of delivery. They say, ‘How fast can we move in?’”
And while construction could commence at any time, Navarra said his real estate firm and partners — Lowe and David Malmuth Development — can afford to be patient and wait for the right tenant.
Of course, the group will be going to head-to-head with several other downtown office projects under way, most notably The Campus at Horton. Real estate outfit Stockdale Capital Partners purchased the 900,000 square-foot Horton Plaza mall for $175 million with plans to quickly convert the retail center into a tech hub and court premier, out-of-town tech tenants.
“Here’s the thing: We’re not all going to be fighting over one tenant,” Navarra said. “Where one (tech firm) goes, others tend to follow.”
And Navarra is confident his project has unrivaled charm.
“What I hear a lot is that people haven’t been to upper East Village in years. Then they go to Punch Bowl Social and they’re totally blown away,” Navarra said. “The whole neighborhood is changing, and it’s changing quickly.”