CARLSBAD — With it’s primary storefront empty for five years, the 33-year-old La Costa Towne Center at the corner of El Camino Real and La Costa Avenue is at last getting a revamp.
The owner of the property gained approval to demolish two commercial structures in the shopping center and replace them with buildings that are half retail and half apartments from Carlsbad’s Planning Commission on April 16.
Planning Commissioners praised the owners for coming forward with plans to redevelop the dated shopping center that they said currently lacks signage, design, and a main tenant.
“(La Costa Towne Center is) just this big long white wall. You have no idea what’s inside, it’s not inviting,” said Planning Commissioner Hap L’Heureux. “This center has been long overdue.”
Commissioner Aurthur Neil Black called the little mall an eyesore.
La Costa Towne Center was originally approved by the city in 1979. Vons anchored the 15-acre shopping center until the grocery store closed in 2008 and was never replaced.
Representatives for the owner, Excel GIV, were not shy about the condition of the shopping center.
Excel’s William Stone said, “This proposed project that is before the planning commission is the redevelopment of a 33-year-old shopping center that is obsolete.”
Referring to the Vons building he said, “That building is so bad, if any of the termites quit holding hands it would probably come down.”
While the current tenants, including a Jazzercise and massage parlors, are surviving, they are not thriving, he explained.
Stone said that the new development will be a smart-growth project where people can live, work, and play in the same location.
The new retail spaces have been designed with specialty grocery stores and coffee shops in mind.
Excel’s staff explained that the center will be more aesthetically pleasing and inviting to shoppers by knocking down one commercial building along El Camino Real and locating its replacement along the east side of the shopping center.
Residents from adjacent neighborhoods spoke at the meeting to express concerns about potential noise and traffic increases from the new residences and businesses.
“I’m dying for a little grocery store and coffee shop,” said one resident, Julie Marshall. But she explained that there is already a lot of noise generated from the current shopping center from landscapers, street cleaners, and delivery trucks at all hours of the day and night.
Planning commissioners urged the property owners and developers to consider having a live-in manager for the apartment buildings who can handle noise complaints promptly and working more with the existing businesses to prevent late night deliveries.
Commissioners also brought the project to the attention of the city’s traffic engineer for consideration of traffic mitigation efforts, including restriping El Camino Real.
But otherwise, all parties expressed their excitement about the shopping center to come.
“I love the open areas that they are creating and the little community areas that they are creating,” said Commissioner Victoria Scully.