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Agreement Reached with Simplon Corp

Three Historic Buildings Incorporated in Cosmopolitan Square

By Bruce Coons

Fire Station #4

Western Wholesale Drug Company Building

Bledsoe Company Furniture Warehouse Building

The latest in a series of agreements we have reached in the East Village incorporates more historic resources than any other project since the Ballpark agreement itself. Cosmopolitan Square is a new development across the street from the "Park at the Park" and the Simon-Levy building. It will feature the retention of the 1937 WPA-built Art Deco Fire Station #4 at 8th and J Street, the Bledsoe Company Furniture Warehouse building "Pack Lofts" at 7th and Island, and the front half of the Western Wholesale Drug Company Building "Unicorn Antiques" located at 7th and J Street.

The Preservation Advisory Group (PAG) has been meeting with Simplon Corporation since late last year and we are happy to announce this latest in our continuing efforts to preserve the character-defining features of San Diego's past, while we are building for tomorrow.

The PAG, as you may remember, was set up as a part of our ballpark agreement to oversee development in the Ballpark district, particularly along the J Street corridor where design guidelines were negotiated as part of the settlement. SOHO has three members on the PAG, Bruce Coons, David Swarens and Maureen Steiner. Mike Bueler from the National Trust and Marsha Sewell representing San Diego's Historical Resources Board round out the preservation interests on the PAG. Also on the PAG are representatives from the City, CCDC, the Padres, and JMI.

The J Street corridor is the heart of the new warehouse district being pursued by SOHO and is also part of the ballpark agreement. It is felt that the retention of the fire station and the Unicorn building is critical to compliment the other buildings along this street. This street will naturally become the next Gaslamp Quarter with its Historic buildings leading east from 5th in the quarter to I-5. David Swarens commented many times in the negotiations that "Fire Station #4 and the Unicorn building constitute a complete block of historic fabric along the important "J" street corridor; the station, built a decade later was designed with the other as its neighbor, and the retention of these two landmarks as a "set" will greatly enhance the sense of the past on this core of the warehouse district. They should stay together."

The new development in addition to the historic buildings will feature what will probably be downtown's most striking new tower with cascading rooftop water features, a new state-of-the-art two-story fire station, and a ground floor central block courtyard. This project was designed by the world famous architectural firm of Kohn, Pedersen, Fox & Associates PC with offices in London, Tokyo, and New York, in conjunction with local architects Austin, Veum & Robbins Partners. The old fire station will become a restaurant, complete with one of the two original fire poles, well-worn and polished by years of use by firemen rushing out to protect life and property, the other will be relocated to a new station. Pack Lofts will continue to be housing and the Unicorn Building will be retail and housing. This is another example of what can be achieved by working together to preserve our historic character and our sense of place while accommodating growth, assuring that the past will be an important part of the future.

Photos in this article by Bruce Coons

2005 - Volume 36, Issue 4


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