San Diego Business Journal

BY STEVE POEHLER

A swimming pool, spa and sauna. Steam and exercise rooms. An outdoor lounge, fireplace, barbecue area and landscaped courtyard.

The fifth floor of the new 43-story high-rise Electra residential tower scheduled to open in Downtown San Diego in 2007 will include posh amenities , typical of residential projects built by Bosa Development Corp.

And Poway-based Benchmark Landscape Inc. will get the opportunity to work on Electra's fifth-floor courtyard, as the company received the project's landscaping contract, which is worth about $200,000.

As the project's developer, Vancouver, British Columbia-based Bosa awarded the contract to Benchmark earlier this year, months after construction began on Electra in August 2004.

"It's kind of fun," said Craig Mohns, the vice president of Benchmark. "I think we've done a lot of good work."

Located at 700 W. E St., Electra will sit atop the site of the historic Station B, San Diego Gas & Electric Co.'s old building. Bosa will use Electra's bottom five stories to maintain Station B's fa & #231;ade.

Benchmark, meanwhile, will not begin the landscaping portion of Electra until early to mid-2007, Mohns said. About 75 percent of the company's work will be completed on the fifth floor, while the remaining portion will take place at street level around the building.

For the fifth floor, Benchmark will install gravel, a lawn, potted plants, trees and 2- to 4-foot raised planters. Street level landscaping will consist mostly of tree installation, including grates for the trees and a drip irrigation system.

The difficult part of the job, Mohns said, will be getting the materials from the street onto the fifth-floor rooftop.

"This fifth floor will be real tricky," said Mohns, whose company earned about $19 million in revenues during 2004. "We're dealing with a Downtown area that's already established, so what's the quickest, easiest and safest way to do it?

"These types of jobs are very material-intensive. They're challenging yet rewarding. They're not your typical, everyday landscapes."

Jason Luker, a communications specialist for the Centre City Development Corp., which oversees redevelopment projects in Downtown San Diego, agreed.

"That's kind of the challenge," Luker said of landscaping high-rise buildings in the Downtown area. "There are a lot of interior courthouses. There's definitely plenty to do."

Team Players

Benchmark, which employs about 300 people, has previously teamed up with Bosa on three other nearby residential projects Downtown. Those works include Park Place, a 30-story, 178-unit building that opened in 2003 on Harbor Drive; The Grande at Santa Fe Place, a two-tower complex of 39 stories each and 442 total units, along Pacific Highway that was completed this year; and Horizons, another two-tower project of 24 stories each and 211 total units, situated at 555 Front St. and 510 First Ave. Construction of that project finished in 2001.

Mohns said Benchmark has also received a verbal contract for another new Bosa development, The Legend, a 23-story, 178-unit residential building near Petco Park.

"We've got a great rapport with (Bosa)," Mohns said. "They trust us."

Construction costs for Electra are estimated at $130 million to $140 million, said Dennis Serraglio, Bosa's director of sales and marketing. It is scheduled for completion in late 2007.

Once finished, Electra will be the highest residential building in San Diego, at 43 stories tall. It will include 248 total units of two- and three-story townhomes, as well as one- and two-bedroom apartment homes.

Prices range from $400,000 for a unit of 800 square feet with one bedroom to about $2.3 million for a 2,000-square-foot penthouse. The top four floors include three penthouse suites each.

After Electra's units went on sale in February, it took all of six weeks for them to sell out.

"There are spectacular waterfront views (from Electra)," Serraglio said. "It will be one of the best-built properties in San Diego. It's like living in a five-star hotel."

With Benchmark working on the project's fifth-floor courtyard, Electra will certainly feel that way.

Steve Poehler is a freelance writer living in San Diego.