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Development Seeks To Draw On Strengths Of US/Mexico Border

Locally based Meridian Development is developing a 210-acre multi-use, master planned development called Millenia, which is in the Otay Ranch area of Chula Vista on the US/Mexico border.


Chesnut Properties principal Lee Chesnut (pictured with his 3-year-old grandson) tells Bisnow the project will focus on attracting tenants involved in operations on both sides of the border. Lee’s company is developing the project’s 2M SF office component. Lee spoke at Bisnow's Future of US/Mexico Real Estate event this morning.


Lee’s world-class office complex, designed by Gensler, includes three office campuses on 28 acres. The Think Campus (above) will have two buildings totaling 330k SF to provide a collaborative, globally oriented educational environment for education or training programs applicable to the needs of high-tech and life sciences companies—something like the Google University concept being considered by Google.


He envisions his project as the next Silicon Valley destination, with the educational campus attracting students from Mexico and around the world to feed tech companies at the Invent Campus and life sciences firms at the Discover Campus (above), which has one mega-building with 440k SF. “Educators housed here will work in collaboration with tech and life sciences companies at campuses across the street to produce their ideal employees,” Lee explains.

Lee notes the Invent Campus (below) can accommodate tech users up to 700k SF, but is expandable to 1M SF. “We believe that our project will be extraordinarily compelling to these sectors, as we can deliver large-scale solutions at half the cost of space in the Silicon Valley,” he tells us. Additionally, Lee points out housing in Chula Vista is 30% of the cost of housing in Silicon Valley, and 50% less than north and central San Diego County submarkets. That creates huge savings for office users and their employees, he says.


Lee's biggest concern is whether the Millenia office component will happen in 24 months or eight years, since he won’t break ground without tenant commitments. Nowhere else in San Diego County has land available at this scale, he says. “We have a sweet spot in timing," he tells us, with the most favorable climate for success, but that window will close.

He believes a convergence of influencing factors will attract global companies here, including the opportunity for global collaboration, affordability, highly specialized talent, and the convenience of Tijuana International Airport’s new Cross Border Xpress (CBX) terminal, which is linked to Chula Vista by a 390-foot pedestrian bridge. CBX eliminates the two-hour (or more in traffic) trek to LAX to access non-stop, international flights, Lee says, now that non-stop international flights are no longer available out of San Diego International Airport.


Meanwhile, development of Millenia is happening quickly. Composed of former Corky McMillian Cos executives, Meridian, which is managing the master planned development for property owner Stratford Land Co, has completed grading, major roads and most infrastructure for Phase 1 of the development. (Corky McMillian sold its share of the property to Stratford last year.) Planned as an urban village and epicenter of south San Diego County commerce, the overall development includes 3,000 residential units, 1.5M SF of retail, hospitality, civic and mixed-use projects, and six themed urban parks.

Below is architect RTKL's concept for Millenia Town Center


Targeting LEED certification, Millenia is designed with pedestrian pathways and bike lanes linked to parks by a 20-foot-wide promenade through the development, which also provides public transportation options. The development’s plan garnered the 2014 Circulate San Diego’s “Complete Streets” Project Award and has been recognized by the SD Association of Governments as a Smart Growth Urban Center.

Local developer Fairfield Residential completed Pulse Millenia (above), a 273-unit luxury apartment community at Birch Avenue and Eastlake Parkway, last fall. Meridian Communities, the homebuilding arm of Meridian Development, has started site development on three attached residential condo neighborhoods, all designed by the award-winning Woodley Architectural Group.

Alexan Millenia, a 309-unit residential mixed-use project from Trammell Crow, is also in the works. Shea Homes SD is under construction on 176 urban-style townhomes and detached single-family residences, and Chelsea Investment Corp is underway on a 210-unit, five-story affordable housing apartment complex with both family and senior apartments.

Additionally, local developer Sudberry Properties plans to break ground the end of this year on the first phase of a town center-style retail component, which includes 150k SF of shops, dining and entertainment amenities. The Ayres Hotel chain will break ground on a four-story, 135-room hotel mid-year. Stylus Park, a 1.9-acre urban-style park just south of Pulse, is under construction and will open in 2017.