Architect's rendering of finished project
  • Architect's rendering of finished project
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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.

Google Maps image of site

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.

Site as it exists today

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.

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dwbat Jan. 23, 2014 @ 2:32 p.m.

Lucy Contreras with CivicSD clarified her comment about the approval process. She said that "only the map waiver request is going before the City Hearing Officer; the entire project as a whole was already approved as you state. Also, the item was on consent at the community planning group, and will not be on consent with the hearing officer."


dwbat Nov. 2, 2014 @ 6:32 p.m.

11/2/14 UPDATE: Former Civic San Diego President Jeff Graham (now Senior VP, Public Institutions with Jones Lang LaSalle, and also a board member of Wakeland Housing and Development) provided a progress report: "Since the project just received notice that it won its needed 9% tax credits in October, it should begin construction during the first quarter of 2015."


dwbat Jan. 9, 2015 @ 9:05 p.m.

The City Council on Jan. 13 is expected to approve an expenditure of up to $225,000 for relocation of the businesses who have to move by early February. California Stamp Co. and Spencer S. Busby law offices have to vacate their two buildings being demolished.. The building owners previously received $1.345 and $1.08 respectively to sell. Construction of Atmosphere is scheduled to begin in March.


dwbat March 4, 2015 @ 6:06 p.m.

3/4/2015 update: California Stamp Co. and Spencer S. Busby law offices did vacate, and moved to new locations. The Cortez District will eventually have a new "Atmosphere" when construction is completed.


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