While the renovated Lafayette Hotel on El Cajon Boulevard in University Heights has raised the bar, commercial properties nearby haven’t been so successful. Going west on El Cajon Boulevard from Louisiana Street to Florida Street, there are vacant storefronts along both sides of the street.
Massilia Cafe at 2121A El Cajon Boulevard recently closed down, and restaurateur Laurence Givert was evicted. According to Steve Aldana with El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association, Luigi Agostini of Pizzeria Luigi (at 2121B next door) is taking over the space; Eclipse Chocolate previously occupied the site before moving to South Park.
A church once leased a building across the street at 2104 (next to Boulevard Fitness), but it's been empty for at least a year. Aldana said Awash Market & Ethiopian Restaurant, currently at 2884 El Cajon Boulevard, has purchased the property and will move its business there.
The long-closed San Diego Stage & Lighting (an eyesore with faded murals and graffiti) at 2030 El Cajon Boulevard has a promising future. The property sold in September for $7.7 million to HG Fenton Co. and will become an upscale apartment building. It will be “transformational,” said Aldana. But that project could easily take two to three years to be completed.
Bernie Horan, president of University Heights Community Association, said in an interview that “we are still not sure what the total [apartment] project will look like, but the changes will be good.” While the association is not a planning group or business-improvement association, “in matters concerning new construction in our area, we act as a voice for our community,” said Horan. “We are an advisory group for the local planning groups.”
Except for a Halloween pop-up shop, the old Blockbuster Video on 2011 El Cajon Boulevard at Florida Street has remained vacant. At this point, it reportedly has no takers and only attracts graffiti taggers and occasional homeless people. A two-story building at 2041-2045 appears to be mostly empty. But Sisterlocks, a hair-care salon for African-American women, has now opened at the 2043 address in the building.
A new parklet on Alabama Street is just off El Cajon in front of Mama's Bakery. Some might say it's a copycat approach to add some badly needed North Park vibe to the area.