The dead-in-the-dirt “Atmosphere” downtown condo project, which crashed in 2004, is getting a new lease on life. Now it will definitely become a low-income apartment complex, through efforts by Centre City Development Corp. (now Civic San Diego) and the nonprofit Wakeland Housing and Development Corp. of San Diego.
The original Atmosphere site was expanded last year, when two adjacent buildings were purchased by the city. Both will be demolished when construction begins, sometime in 2015. The tenants are now on month-to-month leases.
The project must still go before a City of San Diego hearing officer, said CivicSD senior planner Lucy Contreras. She explained that such approval is usually done “on consent with no major controversy, especially if it is associated with a project that has had numerous public meetings prior to approval.”
That's the case with the Atmosphere project. The San Diego City Council gave final approval to the 12-story, 205-unit project last year. It includes street-level retail and three levels of subterranean parking (182 spaces). The project is budgeted at $82,568,312 — subject to change, per construction and interest cost increases — said a Wakeland spokesperson. The combination of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments averages out to more than $402,000 per unit.
Attorney and activist Hud Collins, who regularly blasts municipal expenditures at city-council meetings, told the Reader he's opposed to all affordable-housing projects. “The city should not be in the affordable-housing business,” Collins said, “especially in the current pension crisis.” He added that $400,000 per apartment unit is “ridiculous” for such projects. “It should be $70,000 to $100,000 per unit at most,” said Collins.
Wakeland's CEO Ken Sauder emailed his input: “Whenever Wakeland has come to Civic San Diego and the Downtown Community Planning Council with this project, their support has been overwhelmingly positive. Wakeland’s goal with all of our projects [is] creating affordable homes for hard-working people who couldn’t otherwise afford to live in our area.”
The site in the Cortez neighborhood is bounded by Ash and Beech streets and Fourth and Fifth avenues. The project will surround two sides of the Beechwood hotel at 1465 Fourth Avenue. A city park is planned for the huge parking lot on the opposite side of Fourth Avenue.