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A long-empty corner of Point Loma Heights is getting a makeover. A developer named Veritas Urban Properties recently broke ground on the empty lot at the intersection of Voltaire Street and Catalina Boulevard, a site that has stood empty for about two decades, attracting litter and vandalism, despoiling an otherwise up-and-coming pocket of the Point Loma penninsula.

Southeasterly view

A Chevron gas station that once occupied the land closed in the early 1990s — back when gas still cost less than two dollars per gallon. While the structures and underground tanks were removed at that time, the lot required extensive sweeping and several years' worth of soil testing to meet environmental regulations overseeing brownfield redevelopment — a process that consumed many years while the lot sat vacant.

Street-level view from across Voltaire St.

The property received approval for development several years ago, just in time to be impacted by the nation's adverse economic climate. Even while burgeoning local businesses such as the Sessions Public gastropub and To the Point Café and Bakery opened on adjacent properties, injecting new life to the neighborhood, the southeast corner remained empty, unused, and unkempt.

Located roughly a mile from the sand of Ocean Beach and just off an exit from Nimitz Boulevard, Point Loma Heights doesn't receive a tremendous amount of foot traffic, but as a point of access between Interstate 8 and the residential interior of the peninsula, this intersection does see its fair share of cars. The empty lot often caught the attention of Veritas co-owner Russ Murfey as he drove by.

From across Catalina Blvd.

Murfey says he and his brother Scott have been on the lookout for "cool urban infill sites," to develop together, and this one fit the bill.

"Point Loma has a lot going on and Ocean Beach is going through a renaissance," Murfey says. "It just seemed like a perfect spot." They bought the land last year and have embraced the land-efficient concept of mixed-use residential/commercial development, which has also been cropping up lately with projects in North Park, Golden Hill, and Little Italy.

Caddy-corner

The Famosa Townhomes, as the project is named, is being designed by Stephen Dalton Architects out of Solana Beach; Murfey Construction will do the building. It will include nine second- and third-story condominiums and more than 2000 sq. ft. of commercial space at ground level.

Construction is scheduled to finish next fall on the decidedly 21st-century structure, which will feature solar power, pedestrian-friendly walkways, along with outdoor seating attendant to the commercial space fronting Voltaire.

While construction may disrupt local life in the months ahead, neighbors and residents seem to be embracing the project and the positive long-term effect it will have on the neighborhood.

Kristen Keltner owns To the Point, which shares a property line with the Famosa project, and will likely bear the brunt of the construction zone's inconvenience. Nevertheless, she says the developers have thus far been considerate about their impact on her business. Even as she has erected new latticework to protect her café's patio seating from the heavy machinery next door, she anticipates the project will be a great improvement over the vacant lot, which “attracted trash and graffiti and was basically an eyesore."

Nearby resident Carrie Gray has been waiting for the lot to be developed for more than eight years, going so far as to walk over with her family on occasion to pick up trash in hopes of beautifying the space. She also expresses optimism about the change: "In general I am very excited and always thrilled about building our community and supporting small businesses of OB/Point Loma. We can't wait for the neighborhood improvement!"

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Comments

QueenMe Dec. 3, 2013 @ 5 p.m.

While it's nice that the lot will be developed, I wonder how much more traffic congestion will be created by all of those condos. Catalina backs up, both in the a.m. and p.m. during rush hour, at that traffic light. And I personally don't care for the design of the building either, too bad they aren't putting up something that will blend in better.

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jnojr Dec. 11, 2013 @ 2:59 p.m.

"All of these condos"? How many do you think will fit there?

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QueenMe Dec. 14, 2013 @ 4 p.m.

According to the article there are 9 planned. That sounds like way too many to me, for such a small lot.

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seaportcynthia May 20, 2014 @ 5:11 p.m.

Agreed. Just be sure to tell your Jr. & Hi school local kids to make sure someone doesn't 'run into' them/or that they don't turn into kids on their bicycles or walking across the street. Along with the Dozens (nearly 4?) More condos going in where the surfboard place & where the Asian restaurant now sit, that corner is going to be jammed with the traffic from 3,000 kids (many driving as 'teens') to get to and from PLHS & Correia, not to mention Dana. We warned them when I was on PCPB...after actually watching a teen on a bicycle get Hit by a car turning opposite that corner! And the former PCPB member, a developer, insisted that Voltaire had "70 feet" for new traffic lanes (Not if you Include the 10" wide sidewalks), so Where Do the Bicyclists, on the Only level path to the Beach go? On the sidewalk? With one lane of parking on each side, one driving lane And a middle turning lane? Be warned...someone is going to get severely hurt or killed with the Density planned there. The Density Is Not Supported in this area. This development is 'new,' don't know that it even went before the PCPB. The 'others' required review as they went in requiring Higher Densities, over what the 'code' in zoning allows. This city & this community is Not Paying Attention. Wake Up Peninsula/OB!

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Carrie Away Dec. 3, 2013 @ 7:30 p.m.

That corner property is kind of smallish to fit in a bunch of Famosa condos but I guess it's better than watching all the pigeons congregate in that empty lot while stuck at the light there. Great story and very thorough.

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