Rob Wellington Quigley architects headquartered in East Village.
“It’s place making. We’re trying to make a place that is open and usable for the community as well as residents,” said Quigley, whose firm was the lead architect on the project bordered by El Cajon Boulevard, Fairmont Avenue, Meade Avenue and 44th Street.
“This is one of the most special and unique (projects) that we’ve ever done,” Quigley said.
A Focal Point
Formerly known as East Block, the project includes two apartment buildings – one for seniors and one for low income families - a commercial building, and a town square that will be open to the public during certain hours of the day.
As the executive architect on the project, Quigley designed the family apartments, the town square, and the commercial building and Studio E based in Bankers Hill designed the senior apartment project.
Adding Studio E to the project “gave the project a richness it couldn’t have had if I had to design all three buildings,” Quigley said.
A tree-shaded stairway at the corner of El Cajon Boulevard and Fairmont Avenue will lead up to the town square. A ramp will allow access to the town square for food trucks and service vehicles.
The town square is meant to be a focal point of the community, hosting festivals, open air markets, concerts and lecture programs, among other activities.
The town square will be overseen by a “mayor,” chosen by project residents.
“All great public places have a sense of ownership,” Quigley said, placing control of the town square in the hands of project residents does that.
“The ones that don’t work, that have crime, are the ones that don’t have anyone owning them,” Quigley said. “The senior building is designed to be eyes on the square so it provides a neighbor security component. The community was very concerned about this, making sure it didn’t become a homeless camp.”
Mixing Families and Seniors
The five-story family portion of the project – Mid-City Family Apartments - was designed to allow daylight into what would typically be dark corridors.
The apartments have large windows arranged around small light courts, Quigley said, “transforming the typical dark and dreaded double-loaded corridor into a pleasant entry experience.”
A double-loaded corridor has apartments arranged on each side of a corridor running down the center of a building.
“It’s actually choreographed so people are always seeing people,” Quigley said.
The family building scales down to one-story meeting rooms and courtyards facing the sidewalk on 44th Street.
The project will have a garden on 44th Street that’s meant to be a place where residents of the senior apartments mingle with the families who share the site.
“This idea of intergenerational activity drove a lot of the design,” Quigley said.
The idea behind the five-story commercial building, what Quigley called the Civic Monument Building, is to have a restaurant on the ground floor with retail or cultural institutions above it, Quigley said.
The project is being built by Chelsea Investment Corp. in partnership with Price Philanthropies Foundation, which donated the land and is providing some of the funding.
Chelsea Investment is working on five affordable housing apartment communities in San Diego County this year with plan to start construction on three more this year. Combined, the projects will have more than 1,000 apartments.
The company has built about 9,700 affordable apartments in California and Arizona since 1995.
Mid-City Senior Apartments – the portion earmarked for seniors - will have 117 one-bedroom apartments of 440 square feet, said Athena Schmid, marketing manager of Chelsea Investment.
Mid-City Family Apartments will have 78 two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments ranging from 990 square feet to 1,100 square feet, Schmid said.
The apartments will be earmarked for tenants earning up to 60% of the area median income, which is up to $50,940 for one person and $58,180 for two persons.
Monthly rents for the two-bedroom and three-bedroom family apartments will range from about $1,200 to about $1,600 and rents for the one-bedroom senior apartments will range from $750 to $1,200.
Construction is expected to finish in mid-2022.
Serving Seniors will provide social services to project residents, regardless of age, Schmid said.
Rob Wellington Quigley Architects
Principal and founder: Rob Quigley
Headquarters: East Village
Number of employees: 8
Notable: The firm’s design portfolio includes civic, academic, cultural, residential, and mixed-use buildings, as well as community planning and urban design projects. Residential work includes affordable housing complexes, residential towers, and high-end custom homes. The firm has received more than 70 awards for design excellence from the American Institute of Architects (AIA).