CARLSBAD — About a year and a half after buying 48 acres of the Carlsbad strawberry fields along Interstate 5 and Cannon Road, Caruso Affiliated is collecting input from local residents, businesses, and nonprofits about its proposed shopping center.
The Los Angeles developer bought the land from SDG&E with the intention of eventually building a destination retail center that will incorporate shops and restaurants.
The company’s existing projects are mostly luxury shopping centers including The Grove in Los Angeles.
Caruso Affiliated has not yet started designing the shopping center, and the land continues to be utilized for agriculture by the Carlsbad Strawberry Company.
But company representatives have held over 100 community meetings since purchasing the property.
“Community outreach is an integral prong to Caruso Affiliated’s philosophy,” said Caruso Affiliated spokesperson Liz Jaeger. “We work closely with local officials, civic groups, and, most importantly, residents of the neighborhoods that immediately surround the property to hear their input.”
Previous proposals for the strawberry field property have fallen through over the years, partly due to lack of community involvement. One proposal from a developer consisted of building homes on the site and another planned a new stadium for the San Diego Chargers.
Caruso Affiliated is working to create a retail project that will incorporate the property’s existing agriculture and will not include surrounding homes, Jaeger said.
Peter Mackauf, the general manager of the Carlsbad Strawberry Fields, said that he has met with Caruso Affiliated staff multiple times to discuss how the project could integrate the current agricultural activity of the property.
“Our hope is that (the shopping center) will affect us in a positive way and we have reason to believe…that a lot of effort would be made to do that,” he said.
Mackauf said he is more concerned that the construction of the pipeline for the desalination plant along Cannon Road is driving away his customers this season and is not worried about the ensuing development.
Caruso Affiliated has also worked with the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to preserving and enhancing the lagoon that is adjacent to the strawberry fields.
“They’ve been supportive of us for years now,” said Samantha Richter, the community relations representative for the foundation.
Michael Gazzano, a development manager for Caruso Affiliated, serves on the foundation’s board.
Richter explained that Caruso Affiliated has sponsored a number of the foundation’s community events.
Caruso Affiliated intends to continue its community outreach and does not have a timeline on when it will draft designs for the retail center and bring them before the city, according to Jaeger.
Future community meetings have yet to be scheduled, but residents can request more information about the project at carlsbadlifestyle.com.