With the January 10 expiration of Grossmont Center's 50-year lease, Cushman family members are "no longer passive owners" of the property, Stephen Cushman said at the January 27 La Mesa City Council meeting.
5500 Grossmont Center Drive, La Mesa
Cushman said current activity at the 125-acre shopping center includes renewing more than 95 percent of retail leases; future plans are for mixed use.
"We can see residential; we can see retail below the residential," and "hopefully, a hotel" with a "couple hundred rooms."
Furthermore, Cushman said, "Zales is closing at the end of the month," and the space will house guest services and a community room. He also said the Frazee Paint store on Jackson Drive will remain. The neighboring Arby's and the former site of a used-car lot on the corner at Center Drive will be replaced by a Sonic Drive-In.
Cushman said in a January 30 email that retail leases are for five years and tenants consist of "all of the majors and most of [the] existing" businesses. He did not answer the question about the total value of the center leases. Asked for details about the Sonic opening, he wrote, "Not at this time."
At the meeting and in the email, Cushman described Grossmont's history. His family came to San Diego County in 1860 and bought land in La Mesa more than 100 years ago. During the 1950s, his father, Elliott Cushman, "believed retail shopping would come to the suburbs. The balance of the family didn't agree with Dad," who published the Independent newspaper.
When the land was divided, Cushman's family acquired the Grossmont land. One of Stephen Cushman's first real estate deals was to "buy out a sheep farmer next door."
The shopping center that opened in 1961 is bounded by Fletcher Parkway Drive, Jackson Drive, Center Drive, and Grossmont Center Drive. The family owns three medical buildings near the mall; Sharp Grossmont Hospital is on land that the Cushmans gave to the hospital district.
The center was first leased in 1961, and Denele Company was the last lessee. It is now controlled by the Cushman family's Rainbow Investment Company. Cushman said relatives in the family business include his daughter Lori Moore, grandson Nikolas Parrish, and niece Janice Ziegler.
In regards to the possible change in use at the center, vice mayor Ruth Sterling asked where residences would be located. Cushman said his brother Larry "sees it" in the area around CVS. The family would also "look at [land around] the trolley."
Cushman described other possibilities for the property. "Red Lobster could conceivably be a hotel”; there could be housing for San Diego State students. "It's kind of an open sheet of paper" as to "how it all meshes. Millennials and young people want everything contained. The only thing we haven't envisioned is where they could work. They want to live, work, play" in one place. While a commercial building isn't planned, Cushman said he would "love to have" one.
Cushman said center promotions includes advertising in U-T San Diego, on the radio, and "soon television commercials," Facebook, Yelp, and a new website. Upcoming activities include a February 7 "Cupids and Canines" adoption event. The website shows a monthlong selfie contest in June.
Asked about a summer center tradition, Cushman wrote, "Hopefully the concert series will continue."
Residential-commercial use and a hotel are also in the proposed Crossroads of La Mesa at Park Station plan. That development is proposed on a 4.75-acre site bounded by Baltimore Drive, University Avenue, and Nebo Drive. The Kitzman family has owned the land for more than 50 years.
City clerk Mary Kennedy said in a January 29 interview that the issue was not on the council agenda and would need to be heard by the planning commission. A January 29 call to the city planning department was not returned.