Spring Hill Suites by Marriott
Andy Davis knew last year that a developer would be coming to demolish his popular downtown Carlsbad hang known by locals as the Cantina.
The 20-year-old Mas Fina Cantina restaurant and bar on State Street, the even older Hennessey’s Tavern on Roosevelt Street and all the buildings in between were to get razed to make way for a four-story mixed use condo/retail complex called Carlsbad Station which will create some 80 condos, a restaurant and a handful of retail spaces.
Carlsbad's water has a history.
But then mother nature intervened, says Davis.
“In January I called them and said, ‘OK guys, it’s been a year since we heard about all this so can you tell us when the bulldozers are coming?,” says Davis. “They just kind of said, ‘Uh, plans have changed. It’s going to be postponed.”
Davis says he understands the Cantina is saved for the time being by a previously unknown underground water table. “In order to make it work, the plans called for underground parking. When they found there was a lake down there, they discovered they had to start over.”
Davis thinks the process to redraw the plans and go through all the permitting again will take at least another two years. He says he has not gotten a direct answer.
“I heard it caused the 7-11 to sink three inches.”
The savior of Mas Fina Cantina appears to be the same underground water table that put Carlsbad on the map in 1882.
Mas Fina Cantina is about 300 yards northeast of the Carlsbad Mineral Water landmark on Carlsbad Boulevard/Highway 101 that sells natural water to drive-up customers. Its alkaline water is also bottled for retail sale.
“That well was discovered by John Frazier,” says Susan Gutierrez, president of the Carlsbad Historical Society. “He convinced the city founders that it was a good opportunity to develop a town in an area that was a desert. It provided water to the steam railroad engines that ran back then. And it was a real draw for real estate developers. Carlsbad was founded because of water.”
Mas Fina Cantina – saved by an underground lake?
The well was abandoned during the great depression. It was re-drilled in the mid-90s and after 60 years reopened as the Carlsbad Mineral Water Artesian Well.
The Don Dewhurst family owns much of the property planned for the Carlsbad Station development. A call to the Dewhursts through their family-owned Karlsbad Realty seeking comment about the future of the properties was not returned.
Davis says that this is not the only time that aggressive development in Carlsbad’s Village area has been impacted by the naturally moist soil.
Locals say that construction of the SpringHill Suites by Marriott, at 3136 Carlsbad Boulevard, was delayed for months because the sides of the underground parking area had actually caved in due to moisture in the soil.
A call to spokesperson Shanna Davis of DKN Hotels of Irvine to get more information on the SpringHill Suites by Marriott construction snafus was not returned. But a visit to the construction site of SpringHill Suites showed that at least ten hardhat workers were back on the job. I contacted site superintendent Johann Larsson about why the job was delayed and he said he would have no comment. His supervisor, Ed Mueller of Bayley Construction of Lake Forest, also said he would not comment. He did admit there was a period when there was no construction, but that its cause was due to the previous construction company which has since moved on. “Call the people at T. B. Penick and maybe they’ll answer some questions,” says Mueller.
A request for comment form T.B. Penick & Sons of San Diego on the work stoppage at the SpringHill Suites in Carlsbad was not returned.
But Carlsbad's spongy soil sinkhole saga did not just slow down the Marriott hotel construction. According to local lore, it even caused the adjacent row of businesses to fall into the earth. “I heard it caused the 7-11 to sink three inches,” says one local.
Immediately north of the SpringHilll Suites construction site are three contiguous businesses, 7-11, Sub Zero Ice Cream and Board & Brew. Two different managers at 7-11 said they were aware of the sinking but said I had to speak with Sterling Property Management to get a comment. Attempts to reach them were not successful. A manager named Sergio at Board & Brew said he had noticed his business had sunk a bit but that I had to speak with his boss Andre Ortiz about an official comment. Ortiz did not return a request for comment.
Cliff Jones, senior planner with the city of Carlsbad says that there was indeed some soil “settlement” problems endured by the 7-11/Board & Brew businesses because of the adjacent Marriott construction, but that the new construction company has managed to proceed without any new soil sinking issues.
City of Carlsbad project engineer Kyrenne Chua says that underground water was in fact discovered at the Carlsbad Station project site. “It is common to find water deposits in that part of Carlsbad.” But that it does not mean the project is dead. She says there was underground water at the six-condo project called Six on Madison on the corner of Oak Avenue and Madison Avenue and the developer successfully “dewatered” the site to allow the undergrounding to go through. “I wouldn’t say [the discovery of water] would prevent the Carlsbad Station project from going through.” She says the developer must adapt the project around the recommendations provided by geotechnical engineers as excavation moves ahead.
Chua says the Carlsbad Station project goes before the Carlsbad planning commission on June 17 and if approved may go before the city council in August. She says if it is approved there, it could mean current businesses would have six months to two years before the bulldozers come to rip out their buildings.
But Kevin Bender, a former member of the Carlsbad Historic Preservation Commission, says parking lots just don’t belong where underground wells are now. “Water is telling Carlsbad to stop digging into its domain for parking. We need an over-ground public parking structure in the Village. Water has wit and wisdom. Listen to it.”