Little Flower Haven, the Catholic nonprofit home for the elderly located at 8585 La Mesa Boulevard, closed on June 30, 2015. The proposed plan for the 4.09-acre site is Little Flower Apartments, a 130-unit complex that will incorporate “the whole 1939 building and bell tower,” said Silvergate Development principal Ian Gill in an interview on March 1.
The nonprofit home operated by the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus, welcomed its first guest on November 1, 1938. “The arrival of 18 more ladies later on filled the Home to capacity,” according to the Little Flower website. The facility name honors St. Therese of Lisieux, a Carmelite known as the “Little Flower.”
On October 3, 1939, a new Mission-style building with a chapel was dedicated, raising the population of the home to 38. That two-story building cost $70,000, according to the 1982 Historic Resources Inventory included in the February 7 city report to the La Mesa Historic Preservation Commission. The report stated expansion during the 1950s included construction of a west wing, a chaplain’s residence, and a new convent. A larger chapel was built in 1965.
Gill said Little Flower’s original chapel may serve as the project entrance. In the chapel, a black-and-white photograph of St. Therese is attached to a colorful wall mural. Gill said the stained-glass windows will be offered to the Carmelites. The La Mesa sisters relocated to Corpus Christi, Texas, said development director Tommy Edmunds Jr.
Other items left behind included a 1998 Physicians’ Desk Reference and Organ Recitals record album in the choir loft. That area will become the complex mezzanine. The loft door leads to the electronic carillon that will continue to ring on the hour, Gill said.
Earlier uses for the property were described in the historic-resources inventory written by Ray Brandes of the San Diego Association of Governments. He wrote that Little Flower was built on land “owned by the Moisan family, which included 6 sisters and 2 brothers.” The family lived in a house and operated the Madame Alice French Salon de Mode on the property.
“After one sister died suddenly in 1929 and two other sisters married, Louis Moisan, one of the brothers, converted the salon into an apartment and built other apartments on the property. The other brother was Rev. R.A. Foriter, a Catholic priest.” The Little Flower history said Fortier was the Moisans’ cousin. Brandes wrote that San Diego Bishop Charles F. Buddy purchased the land; both sources stated that he invited the Carmelites to operate the home.
Gill said Silvergate’s partner for Little Flower Apartments is Pathfinder Partners. “We haven’t closed escrow with the Carmelites” for the “around $6 million” purchase, he said. Benson + Bohl Architects designed the complex, which has a building area of 127,000 square feet. Seven two and three-story buildings are planned, along with 195 off-street parking spaces and a common recreation area with a pool. The site plan shows new setbacks and amenities, including a dog/play area, urban veggie garden, and bocce court.
Gill said his company’s one-bedroom units are from 600 to 700 square feet and in different floor plans. Estimated rents are from $1600 to 1700. The two-bedroom units are 840 to 950 square feet, with estimated rents of $1850 to $2150. “These estimated rents are preliminary and subject to adjustment closer to completion,” Gill said.
According to the city report, the process for returning the site to apartment use includes design-review board review, a planning commission hearing on a special permit for a retaining wall and 25 percent parking reduction, and city-council ratification of design-board action.