Article By David Garrick, visit the original article post.
A new developer says he wants to quickly resume construction of the partly built City Square condominium project, increasing optimism among Escondido city leaders about their plan to revitalize downtown with hundreds of upscale condos.
City Square, approved by the City Council as a 102-unit project at Second Avenue and Centre City Parkway in 2005, was put on hold with only 18 units built because of the real estate crash that began in late 2006.
It was one of the most prominent of several downtown housing developments approved before the housing crash by the council, which was hoping to create an urban core where people could shop and find entertainment within walking distance of their homes.
But the only project completed was 15 town houses east of City Hall on Pennsylvania Avenue.
New momentum behind the council’s old plan began this winter when Lyon Capital Ventures announced it would soon begin construction on the unfinished 200-unit Paramount and Venue projects, which a previous developer abandoned after a 2007 fire.
Councilwoman Marie Waldron said the news about the remaining 84 units of City Square adds to that momentum.
“Having these projects sitting dormant gives the appearance that nothing is happening downtown, so it does nothing to enhance the business climate,” said Waldron. “This also helps fulfill our goal of having people live and work downtown.”
Thora Guthrie, chief executive of the Downtown Business Association, said City Square and other residential developments were key to the city’s dreams of a vibrant downtown with a wide variety of thriving entertainment venues.
“We’re really excited to see more residents down here, because they will be some of the people that shop in our stores and dine in our restaurants,” Guthrie said.
Ground could be broken on the rest of City Square later this year if city approvals go smoothly and adequate financing is secured, said the developer, Ken Baumgartner of the Kire Companies in Poway.
He said a loan between $12 million and $15 million was needed for the roughly $20 million project. He declined to say how much he paid for the property, which was controlled by banks after initial developer Barratt American went bankrupt.
The two- and three-bedroom units in City Square could go on sale as early as mid-2012, said Baumgartner, co-founder and chief executive of Kire Companies and a former executive with the Corky McMillin Companies.
The first wave of City Square condos sold mostly in the $400,000 price range, but these units will be slightly smaller, and real estate prices have come down sharply in recent years.
Baumgartner said his firm, which was founded this year, chose City Square as one of its first projects because it’s in a downtown environment and because it’s only a few miles from a $1 billion hospital under construction near the city’s border with San Marcos. He said employees at the new hospital would be ideal candidates to buy the condos.
“This community is a great place to hang your shingle,” he said.
City Square is also only a few blocks from Escondido’s Sprinter station and a minor league ballpark proposed for the western edge of downtown on Spruce Street.
Plans for the project will be submitted to the city’s Design Review Board on April 28, with hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council likely to follow, said Bill Martin, the city’s principal planner.
Martin said the color scheme of beige, red, green and gold would remain the same as in the first phase, and that most other features would also be retained, including pitched roofs and metal balconies. But he said none of the new units would exceed three stories, while previous plans called for some four-story condos.
Mayor Sam Abed said he was excited about the progress on City Square, The Paramount and The Venue. And Abed stressed that the council hadn’t sacrificed its standards out of desperation to get something built.
“We are maintaining our vision of not only urban living, but quality urban living,” Abed said. “We must wait till the right developers and investors come.”
The City Square property covers 3.6 acres on the southeast corner of Second Avenue and Centre City Parkway. The vacant site was created by clearing several vacant houses and a building at 203 S. Orange St. that was once Escondido’s local post office.