Makers Quarter: Sunshaded offices, hipster hangouts

Makers Quarter

by Roger Showley
May 21, 2017, 3:15 PM

Makers Quarter, the five-block gentrifying section of East Village, is already making its mark.

The Coliseum, where Archie Moore once boxed, is turning into a hipster hangout with eight bowling lanes, two karaoke setups, craft cocktails and “scratch food.”

The first housing project, seven-story, 265-unit Broadstone Makers Quarter due to open early next year, will include a high proportion of studios and one-bedroom apartments to appeal to single millennials on the hunt for affordable urban living.

And most significant, construction has begun on downtown’s first major multi-tenant office building in a decade. A formal ground breaking is scheduled May 30. Called “Block D,” the 60,000-square-foot project, opening next year, will feature automatic sunshades, rollup garage doors on each floor and no parking.

“People are bailing their cars for Uber and FRED,” said project planner Stacey Pennington, the last, a reference to the Free Ride Everywhere Downtown shuttle service.

Makers Quarter, a makeover of the Jerome’s Furniture family property holdings, is south of City College and bounded by Broadway and G Street, 14th and 17th streets. Developed by Lankford & Associates, Hensel Phelps and HP Investors, it is masterplanned to include about 979,448 square feet of office space, 140,158 square feet of retail and 808 housing units. It lies within the larger I.D.E.A. District that aims to promote a new live-work-play hub for innovation, design, education and the arts.

Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., calls Makers Quarter “pretty bold,” grounded as it is in the makers movement — people making things and developing new ideas. It includes such amenities as an urban farm, charter school and, in the future, East Village Green park. Looking over an aerial rendering by the BNIM architectural firm, Cafferty compares it favorably with New York City.

“We recognize that when we compete with other places that do well, they’re ahead of us,” he said, when it comes to developing neighborhoods for urban-minded residents and workers. He called the development a “real leverage play” in attracting and retaining talent.

The Block D office building has plenty to offer in the way of innovation. It’s a concrete, not steel, structure to take advantage of the natural heating and cooling attributes of concrete, said BNIM architect Matthew Porreco.

It will incorporate a series of red sunshades that move with the weather. When the marine layer blankets downtown, they’ll fold up. When the sun shines, they’ll open out to block the glare. The effect from surrounding streets will be a building facade constantly in motion.

Other design elements will offer maximum flexibility, such as locating the elevator core to one side of the building so that tenants can spread out over uninterrupted work space. Balconies and stairways will make it easy to move around the building and collaborate with fellow workers. The rollup garage doors will let in plenty of natural air and reduce the need for air conditioning.

“It was about human-centered design, which is really about making workplace environments that are much more stimulating and engaging,” Porreca said.

CBRE broker Matt Carlson said he has been collecting letters of interest from potential tenants but does not expect to sign leases until later this year. He called Block D a “catalyst” building that will touch off growth in downtown’s office base, which has been largely static for years.

“It’s a billboard for the neighborhood to say this is the next employment hub,” Carlson said. “There’s office here. Companies are thriving here and right across the street we can accommodate larger users (in future buildings). This is really the start of office happening.”

Sumner Lee, 40, is one of the early office pioneers in Makers Quarter. He moved his Fuse Integration defense contracting firm from Liberty Station to the Midway area. Then he and his 28-member staff moved in 2015 to a funky downtown warehouse at 1425 E Street.

Inside it’s far from the sleek, shipshape workspace typical of the defense industry. At this one, graffiti art fills the walls and wood pallets divide internal offices.

“It’s a very atypical defense contractor workforce and that is my goal,” he said. “By being an atypical engineering and design firm, I’m going to be able to inject some creativity.”

The neighborhood is still “not pristine or polished,” he agreed, but it has improved in the last two years. And there are microbreweries and one-of-a-kind restaurants all around to enjoy.

“I really like the way being downtown connects myself and the rest of my employees to an environment that is an engaging environment,” Lee said.

Denver developer Robert Thompson said the Coliseum building, a boxing club from 1924 to 1974 at 1485 E, was the only place he could imagine opening what will be the 11th Punch Bowl Social restaurant in San Diego.

“When we can get our hands on a historic building like that big barrel-roof historic boxing arena, that’s just about as good as it gets,” Thompson said.

He said his clubs attract a millennial crowd, what with its combination of hip food and drink; darts, bowling and karaoke; and the urban setting. The 25,000-square-foot project is due to open by the end of the year.

“Just because we’ve cracked this millennial code, I don’t think anybody feels uncomfortable outside that set,” he said.

Alliance Residential also has tailored its seven-story, 265-unit Broadstone Makers Quarter apartment project, due to open early next year at Broadway and 16th Street, to the millennial maker population.

“That’s exactly the demographic we’re going after,” said the design director Jonas Bronk. “We think we’re on the front wave and it’s going to be great for the neighborhood and great for us.”

Project architect Joseph Wong said the project will offer elements unseen in other Broadstone developments: coworking space on the second floor and a housing mix aimed at urban-minded students and young workers unburdened by excess stuff and thus needing less space carrying lower rents. To celebrate the maker vibe, the leasing office will feature metal work fashioned by designer Paul Basile’s studio.

“I think it’s going to be transformative to the area,” Wong said.

Another residential project, Streetlights Makers Quarter, is due to start construction on 295 apartments later this year at 15th and F streets. High-rise office buildings are planned later at 15th and Broadway and 14th and E.

And to add to the neighborhood party scene, 10 Barrel Brewing is due to open next week at 1501 E.

Makers Quarter: Block by block

Block A

Location: 15th-16th-Broadway-E

Use: 227,200 sq.ft. office; 42,600 sq.ft. retail; 248 homes

Status: Future phase

Block B:

Location: 16th-17th-Broadway-E

Use: Broadstone Makers Quarter, 265 apartments; 4,945 sq.ft.retail

Status: Under construction, open 2018

Block C

Location: 14th-15th-E-F

Use: 700,000 sq.ft. office; 28,700 sq.ft. retail; Coliseum converted to Punch Bowl Social, 24,571 square feet

Status: Punch Bowl Social opening 2018; remainder in future phase


Location: 15th-16th-E-F

Use: Block D 52,248 sq.ft. office; 10 Barrel Brewing, 9,000 sq.ft.

Status: Office under construction, open 2018; 10 Barrel opening this month

Block E

Location: 13th-15th-F-G

Use: East Village Green park

Status: Construction begins 2018

Block F

Location: 15th-16th-F-G

Use: Streetlights Makers Quarter, 295 apartments; 19,893 sq.ft retail

Status: Construction to begin this year