Hillcrest Over the past year in southern Hillcrest, starting at the corner of Fourth and Pennsylvania and ending at the corner of Sixth and Redwood, the sounds of construction on several condominium complexes have dominated the area. High-pitched beeping from forklifts and skip loaders echoed through the neighborhood and entered small one- and two-story apartment buildings and older houses. Cranes and building supply trucks took up coveted street parking, and construction workers on their way to job sites cluttered sidewalks early in the morning.
The residents of Hillcrest have grown accustomed to the sounds of construction in their neighborhood. In the last five years, the community has witnessed the building of more than a dozen large condominium projects. And despite the recent lull in the housing market, in the upcoming months three new mid- and high-rise developments are slated for completion, while the fate of a fourth is undecided. In all, 216 new residences are planned, not including the controversial 301 University project, which is facing harsh opposition by members of the community regarding its height and number of units.
Alan Nevin, director of economic research for Marketpointe Realty Advisors, feels that there is not enough development occurring in Hillcrest and welcomes an urban makeover. “The area should be a shining star, complete with a blend of high-styled low-, mid-, and high-rise residential projects.… Instead, it’s a neighborhood of one- and two-story obsolete structures that should have been torn down decades ago. Smart growth and Hillcrest should not be mutually exclusive.”
While Nevin believes that the community “should be one of the great urban cores of San Diego,” John Taylor, a representative for Save Hillcrest, a group “dedicated to smart growth in the Uptown District,” sees the matter through a different set of safety goggles. “Hillcrest is not an extension of downtown, nor should it be. Hillcrest is an established community with predominantly one- to three-story buildings. If one brings the downtown model to Hillcrest, you lose the eclectic feel of Hillcrest that many have worked so hard over the last 100 years to create.”
In mid-November 2007, the first condos to be completed, Phase I of Atlas at Hillcrest, opened to new owners on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Pennsylvania. Texas-based D.R. Horton, the nation’s largest homebuilder, developed the Atlas project.
Atlas at Hillcrest — Phase I
3687 Fourth Avenue
63 units, approx. 15 per floor
4 floor plans, 725, 1022, 1214, 1485 square feet
1 and 2 bedrooms
Amenities: Bar lounge with terrace and fire pit; state-of-the-art gym; gated underground parking; pool and spa; satin nickel front door hardware; tile in entry, kitchen, and bath; granite countertops in kitchen and bath; large walk-in closets in master suites; black-on-stainless appliances including slide-in range and self-cleaning oven, built-in microwave/hood, and multicycle Energy Star dishwasher.
Atlas at Hillcrest is located near the heart of Hillcrest, just two blocks south of University Avenue. Builder D.R. Horton touts the U-shaped design of Phase I as “chic, sleek, and innovative.” According to the San Diego branch of D.R. Horton, 39 of the 63 units have been sold.
Richard Benson of Benson and Bohl Architects, whose offices are four blocks away, isn’t a fan of Atlas. He feels that change is inevitable for Hillcrest but that each project should complement and add to the surrounding structures. “I would like to see a variety of buildings…but they should be quality designs that add and enhance the character of the community and not just buildings that get adorned with fake cornices, as is the case with Atlas. The other problem is the fact that due to the height restrictions, they feel like they can go long instead, thus taking up the whole block, which, in my opinion, destroys that block.”
Atlas at Hillcrest — Phase II
3650 Fifth Avenue
77 units, approx. 20 per floor
4 floor plans, 725, 1022, 1214, 1485 square feet
Completion date: January 2009
Amenities: Same as Atlas I
Phase II, east of Phase I and facing Fifth Avenue, is located on the site of the former headquarters of the American Red Cross, just north of the popular Hash House a Go-Go restaurant. Construction on Phase II has slowed. “We are focusing all of our energy onto completing Phase I and moving the new owners into the building,” said Daniel Stevens, a sales representative for Atlas at Hillcrest, in mid-November of last year. None of the Phase II units are currently for sale.
Bill Hall, a 38-year resident and former beauty salon owner in Hillcrest, whose small two-story apartment building sits on Pennsylvania tucked in between Phase I and Phase II, feels that overall “the changes are for the good, besides the dust and the noise. The sidewalks will be redone, the buildings are nice looking. Obviously traffic will be an issue, but really, there’s not much that I could do about it anyway.”
Asked if the infrastructure of the cramped community of Hillcrest would be able to handle the addition of hundreds of new residents, Councilwoman Toni Atkins, who represents the area, said, “Our older urban neighborhoods need upgraded infrastructure.… New development does pay for much of the impact of growth through developer impact fees, fees that are charged to address the impact of increased density and population in a community. The community supported raising those fees several years ago, and they were smart to do so, because during the upturn in the real estate market, the City collected millions of dollars that have been allocated toward infrastructure projects.”
Trilogy on 5th
3265–3285 Fifth Avenue
25 units, 5 per floor
17 floor plans, 1166–2858 square feet
Completion date: March 2008
Amenities: Nine- to ten-foot ceilings in living areas; hard-surface flooring in entries, kitchens, and baths; plush carpeting; granite countertops in kitchens and baths; top-quality appliances; and a double party-wall system for sound insulation.
Four blocks south of the temporary sidewalks of Atlas at Hillcrest Phase II, located on the corner of Fifth and Thorn, Trilogy on 5th occupies the former site of an old Craftsman house, that, according to the builder’s website, was the home of a man named Deroy Spaulding. The Waverly Electric Car Company, a Midwest firm that, according to the Indiana Historical Society’s website, was “the first company to successfully produce several battery-powered vehicles for neighborhood use” during the early 20th Century, also had an office in that block.