After O'Connor's moved, their old building bloomed.
  • After O'Connor's moved, their old building bloomed.
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A work crew recently tearing the stucco face off the old O'Connor's Church Goods building on El Cajon Boulevard uncovered an intricate red brick face that one planning group member said "may be the prettiest building in Normal Heights."

Caroline McKeown, a longtime member of the Normal Heights Community Planning Group, said the brickwork's existence was unknown until the crew began rehabbing the building.

O'Connor's Church Goods was located in the building from 1964 until 2015, when the O'Connor family sold it to Grasshopper Development, which plans to have a charter-school project where students run businesses housed there.

"It used to be a lumber store on one side and the other side was billeting and support for the Atlas manned and unmanned space launches," John O'Connor said. "That was when Convair owned it."

The O'Connors were never sure how old the building is but said they believe it's from around 1908.

"The city's records were destroyed in a fire," O'Connor said. "Then they made us go through all kinds of contortions about non-reinforced masonry because they couldn't find their own records that showed it was reinforced."

"We think it's beautiful, too," said the construction worker.

"We think it's beautiful, too," said the construction worker.

O'Connor's has moved to new digs on Mission Gorge in Mission Valley but remain fond of their old home on El Cajon Boulevard, he said.

David Iwashita, Grasshopper's principal, said he plans to retain the historic brick on the south and west faces of the building — something that workers on the site concurred are their instructions. "We are leaving it here," one said. "We think it's beautiful, too."

This isn't Iwashita's first go-round with historic brick: in 2010, the developer took over the Lafayette Hotel, Swim Club and Bungalows about a mile and a half to the west on El Cajon Boulevard. The company restored the red brick and preserved the hotel and pool (which was designed by Johnny Weissmuller) and upgraded the building.

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Comments

dwbat June 10, 2016 @ 11:59 a.m.

This building is definitely worth preserving. The rotting California Theatre?--Uh, no way.

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Gregory May June 10, 2016 @ 9:27 p.m.

BOTH are worth preserving. O'Connor's had a big stucco cocoon over it to protect it while the building was in use for the last 25 years. If the California Theatre is "rotting" it's because the owners failed to perform maintenance on the building that same time, while the City did NOTHING to enforce it's own "Demolition by neglect" laws: Municipal code section 143.0250 (e) and 143.0250(f).

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dwbat June 11, 2016 @ 2:43 p.m.

Let's hope Civic San Diego votes in July to demolish the California Theatre, and allows a spectacular new building there. It's been an eyesore way too long. It needs to go away. There is absolutely NO need for another renovated theater (at enormous cost) when the Balboa Theatre and Spreckels Theatre are underutilized. For those who love old theaters, demonstrate it by buying tickets regularly to the shows at those two venues! The O'Connor's building. on the other hand, has a great purpose with its new usage. Kudos to them. We're talking apples and onions here.

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Gregory May July 1, 2016 @ 2:35 p.m.

There have been other proposals for the California Theatre as a restored historic building, with "uses" go go with it, but the owner/city are hell bent in demo.

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dwbat July 1, 2016 @ 4:18 p.m.

The proposals for the California Theatre are not economically feasible. That has been well documented. Why are so many unwilling to accept progress? I've shopped at Ross (at 4th & C) and that vicinity is severely blighted.The beautiful new high-rise building will vitalize the area along C Street. Having another theater building would be ridiculous, and an exercise in futility. It's NOT the shot in the arm that spot needs. Let it go, pa-leeze! Preservation has its place, but sometimes new development IS a good thing.

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