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Friday, Dec 9, 2022

UCSD’s $50M Outpost Seen as a Good Start

The shell of what will become the downtown campus of the University of California San Diego is nearing completion, but the promise of what the university’s urban outpost will mean is still taking shape.

“The hope is that this sort of seeds a greater presence over the coming years,” said Gary London, a real estate economist.

Designed by Gensler architects, the four-story building at the southwest corner of Park Boulevard and Market Street is adjacent to a 34-story apartment tower under development by Holland Partner Group with 426 apartments, 85 of which have been designated affordable.

Although not connected, the two share a quasi-public space.

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“The building is in a wonderful urban setting. You’re right there in the center of East Village,” said Sophia Eichner, UC San Diego director of community development and real estate initiatives.

The design and the architecture — of the more than $50 million building — are meant to be welcoming, promote community engagement and establish “a place of discovery, learning, service, enjoyment and creativity,” Eichner said.

Some of what will come has been roughed out with a goal of opening in the spring of 2021.

Along with classrooms, the building will have room for art displays and performances, executive and meeting spaces.

The lobby level will have an enclosure meant as “a complement to downtown San Diego’s vibrant arts and culture platforms,” Eichner said.

Plans also call for at least two restaurants between the Holland Group project and the university’s.

The Park Boulevard frontage will be 30-feet wide with two rows of street trees.

“This is the widest sidewalk/pedestrian area in downtown,” Eichner said. “Even with the two rows of street trees, it will still have enough room for sidewalk seating for UC San Diego on the corner of Park and Market Street.”

The main entrance is on Market Street, where the sidewalk will have trees and planters.

The exterior of the building is what Eichner called a “hybrid window wall and curtained system” that includes a 30-foot wide folding glass wall that opens onto an amphitheater and open terrace.

“It’s designed to just be a really walking-through space, hanging out space, an open area where people can sit if we want,” Eichner said. “UC San Diego will activate that area with events throughout the year, performances.”

The building was designed to have a LEED certified green roof, meaning it will be covered with plants but inaccessible except for maintenance.


A four-level underground parking garage will include four electric vehicle charging stations, with one level earmarked for college-related parking.

Building a downtown outpost is “a small but significant footprint for UCSD,” said London, the real estate economist.

If they can establish a full agenda on that footprint, the opportunity is not so much in this footprint commitment that they’ve made, it’s in the fact that if this first footprint pans out, they’re inevitably going to make a much bigger commitment to downtown,” London said.

“The hope is that this sort of seeds a greater presence over the coming years. The other thing is that the idea that they’re coming downtown might reinforce a commitment on the part of the business and scientific community to revisit downtown and start making their own commitments there.”

Planner Stacey Pennington, a principal of SLP Urban Planning, was more effusive, calling the UC San Diego project “a game-changer” for East Village.

“It will help advance East Village being repositioned as a truly mixed use neighborhood,” said Pennington, who has had a hand in much of the development in East Village.

“One of the biggest wins for East Village is the commitment UC San Diego made to come down there,” Pennington said. “UC San Diego will be a really powerful anchor for economic development and strategies for development of downtown and East Village.”

The East Village location was chosen as the site for the university’s downtown presence in large part because of its easy access to the trolley, said Mary Walshok, dean of extension at UC San Diego.

The trolley, with its extension to UTC and the university’s main campus in La Jolla, will make university programs accessible to a far greater range of people with the downtown site as a hub, Walshok said.

“It’s a place where all kinds of people and all kinds of ideas can meet up because it’s so accessible, Walshok said.

She also sees the downtown campus as a catalyst for creating a cultural and educational corridor along Park Boulevard, linking UC San Diego programs to the downtown library and City College.

Although details on what sorts of programing are still being hashed out, “We’re beginning to have a very clear vision of what’s going to happen in that space,” Walshok said. “It’s sort of a tapestry of everything the university is.”

Among other things, she said the downtown site will offer daytime and early evening programs for those over 50, book discussion groups, continuing learning certificate programs, and luncheon discussion groups led by university professors.

“It’s going to be a busy place, 24-7,” Walshok said.


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