66.7 F
San Diego
Friday, Apr 19, 2024

College Area Business District: Message from Executive Director, Jim Schneider

Organized in 1996, the College Area Economic Development Corporation (commonly known as “College Area Business District”) manages contracts with the City of San Diego for the College Heights Maintenance Assessment District (MAD) and the Business Improvement District (BID). Under those contracts, the organization, a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, serves as a small business advocacy organization to meet the needs of the business owners and commercial property owners surrounding San Diego State University.

Our MAD contract make us responsible for maintaining a clean appearance and appealing aesthetics of the sidewalks and public right of way within the boundaries of the College Heights MAD. These boundaries are the commercial corridor of El Cajon Boulevard between 54th Street and 73rd Street.

Under our BID contract, we are responsible for promoting the district as a shopping and dining destination. These promotional activities are done for the purpose of ensuring the economic vitality of the area and the businesses within our Business Improvement District.

The Business Improvement District boundaries are El Cajon Boulevard between 54th Street and 73rd Street, on Montezuma Road north of El Cajon Boulevard and College Avenue north of El Cajon Boulevard up to and including the businesses on San Diego State University campus. The MAD and BID have, over time, built a strong foundation for us to begin to visibly build our business district.

The College Area neighborhood seemed to be in line to be the “next cool thing” happening in San Diego. The El Cajon Boulevard commercial corridor has seen many changes in recent years with new businesses and improved commercial building renovations; we were on a roll! Then COVID-19 came along and put an abrupt halt to that, hopefully only a temporary halt.

Over the past 2 years, the College Area Business District has been changing its focus on slow pivot from promotions and events to a dedicated economic development perspective. Our primary activities changed to predominantly retaining the viable existing businesses, attracting new viable businesses and attracting new commercial development to the College Area commercial corridors.

Since COVID-19 has impacted the existing businesses, we have quickly pivoted again to only assist those businesses with all things COVID-19 related. Pivoting is the new buzz-word, but our organization and the small businesses we serve have been familiar with that term for long time. Being aware of what is happening around you and nimbly reacting to it appropriately is the key to staying relevant. Once the COVID-19 impacts are relaxed, we will pick up where we left off to continue our economic development activities.

San Diego State University has also been transforming over the past 5 years. Media from SDSU has changed from promoting it as the #1 party school as named by Playboy in 1986, to a focus on attracting millions of dollars to their research and academic achievements. SDSU has successfully made the transition from a commuter school to a campus-life university with great investment increasing the number of dormitories. Some of these new dorm buildings include successful high-end retail shops and restaurants. SDSU has made their campus one that attracts new students as demonstrated by the 90,000 applicants this academic year.

SDSU’s new academic focus is in the disciplines of Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Innovation. SDSU has made great strides by pivoting with singlemindedness to be a regional force in these fields. The physical proof of this focus is the investment of $90 million to build the Engineering and Interdisciplinary Sciences (EIS) building. This brings Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Innovation under one roof to advance collaboration. Having some great recent years of athletics greatly helped raise national attention to the university, bolstering the awareness of their academic advances.

With SDSU being the economic Driver for the College Area, our organization decided to build on our past and recent efforts but include SDSU with our economic development plans. Our vision of the future includes filling the commercial corridor with mixed-use development (residential units above commercial spaces) but with a twist; including research and development labs, coworking spaces and light manufacturing in the commercial spaces. These commercial uses offer higher paying jobs than traditional retail shops, internships for SDSU engineers, entrepreneurs and innovators, facilities for the faculty and staff to expand on their research projects and offer jobs (and housing) for the graduating students thereby retaining their valuable talent for the San Diego region.

This vision also insulates the commercial corridor from the future doom forecasted for the retail industry. With online stores gaining annual sales over traditional retailers, improvements to purchasing technology and transportation of goods, the future of traditional retail as we have known it seems to be closing down nationally. The vision does, however, include small businesses that offer the shopping and dining experiences that seem to be trending upwards in recent years similar to SteelCraft of Long Beach and Quartyard of local renown.

The College Area community is also pivoting as the City will embark on updating the current Community Plan set in 1989. The neighborhoods within the College Area are active with setting the tone for these updates as they support higher density infill development along the commercial corridors and changing the transportation scheme from a car-centric one to the more inclusive “Complete Streets” bike and pedestrian friendly model. Their vision of the future blends in well with our vision, which, together with SDSU’s vision can create a vibrant “College Town” atmosphere surrounding the existing single family homes of the neighborhoods.

With our organization, SDSU and the community all pivoting together like well synchronized gears, perhaps the College Area is set to become the next big thing in San Diego.

Of course, we will need to keep our eyes on the horizon as COVID-19 will certainly and unexpectedly change the landscape. These changes will allow us another opportunity to pivot again, to ensure that we recognize what the new landscape will be and continue to build our vision of the future around that landscape. Our vision may change marginally, but if we continue to stay focused on the future, we can build a better business district and community that will serve the neighborhoods and greater San Diego in ways that others may not have seen coming. Keep your eyes on the College Area, changes are coming.


Featured Articles

Hair Today, Hair Tomorrow

Oberon Eyes Europe for Renewable DME

Leaders of Influence in Law 2024


Related Articles