Aaron Dean sees the Cohns' Beau Bo venture as a catalyst for beneficial development in La Mesa Village.
  • Aaron Dean sees the Cohns' Beau Bo venture as a catalyst for beneficial development in La Mesa Village.
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Change continues in the La Mesa area known as the Village or downtown. One highly visible part of this change was the sometimes-maligned Streetscape project, after which several businesses departed or will soon do so.

In their places, new businesses and developments have and are coming into the area, some identifiable by the fencing, green screening, and “coming soon” signs noticed when driving along La Mesa Boulevard between Acacia and Allison avenues.

Aaron Dean, self-described as “an old La Mesa person” by virtue of his family moving into the area in the 1970s, has four projects under development in the Village: Boulevard Noodles (Asian food); La Mesa 8, a ground-floor bakery and eight condo units in two stories above the bakery (the first ground-up development in La Mesa in 23 years); Sheldon’s Service Station, a coffee shop with outdoor seating that offers beer and wine later in the day; and the Depot Springs Soda Company, manufacturing “hop-infused, all-natural sodas” and including a small storefront selling the soda, ice cream, and confections.

Dean is also known for the Depot Springs Brewery, Table 1888, and Platform 1888, projects that are under construction on Fletcher Parkway, a little more than three miles from the Village.

When asked "why La Mesa?" for all of these ventures, Dean said the region has the potential to be a “real neighborhood” and the government, including the mayor and new development director, are very pro-growth.

Dean cited other ventures such as Craft Kitchen, the Hills, Beau Bo, Helix Brewing, and Bolt Brewery that have recently come to this small East County city.

When asked about change, Dean said, “A lot of people get scared when you use the word ‘change.’” He said that a lot of residents have been in the area since the '70s and, “When you say 'change' to them, it freaks them out a little bit. They picture high-rises. They picture traffic. They picture the wrong kind of people in their minds, whatever that may be.

"When I picture change…this area really needs a younger base. Things geared towards younger people, like schools. Younger folks need to move in to feed students into the schools.... The change people are looking for isn’t, 'Let’s tear up La Mesa Boulevard and put up 20-story buildings.' I think the change people want is that Little Italy feel. Bring back the arts. [Though] some businesses here don’t fit the future.”

What about the change in character? Many departing and departed shops were involved with arts, crafts, and antiques.

According to Dean, most locations that have successful art businesses have a great culinary presence. “The art places will do better if there are more people on the street eating and drinking.”

When asked about the service businesses on La Mesa Boulevard, Dean said, “I’ll get yelled at by my real estate friends, but the stores that do need to move off the main street are the escrow offices and the real estate offices.”

He suggested those businesses need to move a block off the main street so that a balance can be realized, in what he described as a "10-10-10" approach: 10 restaurants, 10 unique businesses...and 10 from another category he could not recall.

Dean advocates for at least 10 good places to eat that are open for lunch and dinner. That will drive the businesses, he said.

Dean compared what is occurring in La Mesa with the Gaslamp District in 1995, with Croce’s and the Cohns invigorating the sketchy area.

“I don’t think anyone would complain about the transition from the types of stores that were there to what it is now.”

Dean forecasts that property owners will realize “that instead of $800 a month for a 1000-square-foot space, they can now get $3000 or $4000 for that space. That is where you will see the restaurants and more unique businesses come in.”

Dean expressed strong support for local events such as the weekly car show and Oktoberfest. He said Oktoberfest should be reworked, but not lost because, “it brings a ton of attention to La Mesa and if worked right can be a spectacular event for the community.”

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Ponzi June 25, 2016 @ 10:57 a.m.

La Mesa needs to fix Spring Street. It is a traffic nightmare and time sink.


AlexClarke June 26, 2016 @ 6:42 a.m.

It seems that the majority of Mr. Deans development is on La Mesa Blvd between Spring and Allison/4th. Does he have any thoughts about La Mesa Blvd between University and Spring? I believe that there is opportunity there as well. Replacing commercial $800 rental space with $3,000 rental space will drive up the prices that the "new" businesses will charge. If, as he predicts, the demand for space goes up the Real Estate/Escrow offices will move. And, I bet he hates the idea of Goodwill being a major tenant.


epsstar June 27, 2016 @ 7:21 a.m.

FYI: I AM an old La Mesa person. I was born in the La Mesa Hospital (La Mesa Blvd. at Glen St.) La Mesa was not built nor designed for the heavy traffic that now flows through. Let's get some more SUV's on those winding streets! If you like parking meters, you'll LOVE "The Village."

  1. No one really cares about "the village." City officials want tax revenue, and any developer that will offer more. Lets park a delivery truck RIGHT HERE. Anyone see any kids playing around "The Village?"

  2. La Mesa is used as a career stop for beginning city planners and money-driven contractors. "The Village" : Right. Where is the candy store? The printer? The jeweler? The bakery? The hardware store? Toy store? Sporting goods store? Kid's clothing store? Woman's fashions? Men's store (Highlander, anyone)? Barber? Grocer? Deli? Green grocer? Flower store? Theater? "The Village" has been erased.

  3. Erased was the baseball field and park that used to be north of the fire station. That WAS nice. Sun Valley Golf WAS nice, before the politicians turned off the water. Look at the mess around Center Street; center of what? The EDCO dump in the middle of town? Grossmont Center WAS nice- out of the way, lots of tax revenue. We get low income housing where the community Christmas tree used to be. Village? How is that pronounced? T-R-O-L-L-Y, say "village"-- funny, both are two syllables and synonyms.

  4. "The Village" street corners are a disaster. Look how many are scored with tire marks from being run over. The traffic flow is a disaster around the central railroad track area, up to the mortuary. One used to be able to get around town by crossing the tracks. Look from a satellite view. Driving and parking used to be symbiotic.

  5. Oh... "the village" on El Cajon Blvd? Isn't that the village, too? How does one spell EYESORE?

I'm rambling like an old person. Get rid of the intern planners. They see a puffed up résumé, NOT a village. To rephrase an old Beach Boys song, "Pack 'em in. Pack 'em in. Buddy goin' to shut you down." Hey visitors: bloom where you were planted.. not here.


AlexClarke June 28, 2016 @ 6 a.m.

There is a really nice "old style" barber shop in the Village.


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