Hilltop Urban Neighborhood Development Vision

The neighborhoods of Encanto in Southeast San Diego are the most diverse and poorest neighborhoods in the city, with the highest crime rates, and the highest percentage of failing schools. Like so many communities across the nation, Encanto is emblematic of many inner-city neighborhoods whose urban and social fabric has suffered from disinvestment and marginalization resulting in the fragmentation of public infrastructure, housing and environmental systems.

Our vision for the Hilltop site is foremost a vision of urban integration and inclusion, presenting a new model of infill-urban development where the creative interface between public spaces, urban agriculture, environmental education, affordable housing, as well as community-based mixed uses, can stimulate economic development, job generation and cultural productivity at the scale of the Encanto neighborhoods.

Our vision is partnership of urban actors, linking non-profit, community-based agencies, affordable and market-rate housing private developers, public educational institutions and entities that support new models of neighborhood economic incubation. We do not employ on conventional urban development recipes, but a diversity of physical, economic and programmatic elements, reflective of an equally diverse coalition of public and private agencies, non-profit and community-based leadership.

The public and community-based components of our proposal forward Groundwork’s EarthLab as a ‘seed’ public space for this development. Our vision depends on the seamless integration of the parcels included in this RFQ with EarthLab serving as a compelling gateway to Euclid Avenue, and a new community space for the Encanto neighborhoods.  We advance a configuration of buildings, walkways, public spaces and community amenities that converge to transform the existing abandoned ravine, on the site, into a grand public ‘urban room’.  We believe this left over space is an essential feature that must be saved and restored. And with this, we share the goals described in the community plan.

Our proposal includes the University of California, San Diego and its Community Stations Initiative, advancing a new form of pubic space that educates, where research, teaching and community engagement will be conducted collaboratively with community partners.

TechShop is our anchor commercial tenant that will also provide a site for fabrication and incubation, complementing the educational facilities of EarthLab and the UCSD Community Station. Our proposal is example of how infill urban developments in marginalized neighborhoods like Encanto can promote job generation and the skills and education to assure real economic and social sustainability in the long term. Ventura Partners from the Bay Area is participating on our team to provide expertise on new models of commercial development that prioritize community entrepreneurship, cultural and incubation uses.

The residential component includes rental and for-sale housing at affordable and market rates. Our team of architect-developers –including the RED-Office, Foundation for Form and Jonathan Segal — are leaders of innovative housing in San Diego, recognized nationally and internationally for their commitment to excellence in design and small-scale development, combining diverse building unit types and plans in unique configurations to assure the mixture of different social and economic compositions. Our project includes diverse housing prototypes, including single-family homes, 4-plexes for sale providing an affordable gateway to the middle class, apartments, shopkeepers units, and affordable units for rent.

The number of architect-developers involved will assure that there is no monotony. Real urban vitality requires a diversity of building characters, uses and economies, instead of the homogeneous vision of a single developer, a homogeneous pro-forma and one architectural style. This coalition of small-scale housing developers is also a way to support and incentivize community-based small businesses and other mixed-uses, instead of relying on the typical big-box and fast food franchises of large-scale development.  This number of smaller builders will also increase opportunities for local contractors to qualify for work.

Finally, to avoid the bureaucratic complexity of multiple developers, we propose one “blue lot developer” as a single source to close escrow on the whole site. This way, we will have the advantage of supporting the aggregation of diverse small-scale pieces through efficient central coordination by one player.

This is a unique opportunity that Civic San Diego has opened up to enable the kind of vision and leadership that is necessary in advancing new ideas on what it means to build a truly neighborhood based urban development. We are eager to lead this vision with you.

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