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Developers Discuss Concerns About 'Future-Proofing' Projects Built Today

Smart-city technologies are causing residential developers to consider how projects built today will meet the needs of future tenants. One of the most pressing considerations for developers today is how autonomous cars will impact mobility in the near future and what to do with subterranean parking structures as demand for parking space declines or they become obsolete.

Developers Discuss Concerns About 'Future-Proofing' Projects Built Today
Rick Miltimore, Stacey Pennington, James Chatfield, Brent Schertzer and Robert LaFever

Moderator Rick Miltimore, senior counsel at Allen Matkins, asked panelists at Bisnow’s San Diego State of the Market event what they are doing about parking in projects. Brent Schertzer, Holland Partner Group development director in San Diego, said the city used to dictate parking requirements, but now leaves it up to the developer.

His company is preparing to break ground on Park & Market in East Village, a $200M mixed-use development with 426 apartments, 51K SF of creative office space that will be occupied by a University of California San Diego satellite campus, 22K SF of retail and a 5K SF plaza that includes an amphitheater for community gatherings.

“We are in the awkward teenage age years with regard to parking,” said Stacey Pennington, urban planner for East Village’s Makers Quarter. She said autonomous cars will bring about a paradigm shift in mobility.

“We need to think more about smart-city approaches to mobility and how to repurpose below-grade parking 10 years from now,” she said, jokingly suggesting it could be converted to skateboard parks.

Pennington cited a new report from HR&A Advisors, in partnership with engineering leaders Arcadis and Sam Schwartz, that discusses policy implications for the driverless future and how cities, suburbs and smaller communities can prepare for this shift in mobility by embracing new land-use and real estate policies to support inclusive growth, leverage driverless technology to improve access and mobility for all communities and help transition drivers to newly created jobs.

Developers Discuss Concerns About 'Future-Proofing' Projects Built Today
Architect Matt Winter of BNIM; JMI Realty's James Chatfield and landscape architect David McCullough

“We’re questioning how much parking we really need," said JMI Realty senior vice president for development Jim Chatfield. "We’re looking at converting some parking space to other uses.”

He said Millennials do not need space for two cars and in the future one car per household will likely be the norm.

JMI, in partnership with South Carolina-based Greystar, is under construction on the 37-story, $230M, 720-unit residential component at East Village’s $1.5B Ballpark Village development next to Petco Park. This project will include 45K SF of shops and restaurant space built along L Street and Park Boulevard surrounding a 12K SF open-air central plaza leading to the Petco Park main gate and a proposed 1,600-room hotel.

Chatfield suggested shared parking, which is already happening in some places, is likely to become more common in the future, with residential properties sharing parking with other uses, such as nearby office buildings. He said residential parking structures are mostly empty between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on workdays. Greystar managing director Robert LaFever said a luxury project of the size and quality of Ballpark Village must provide adequate parking to accommodate resident requirements.

“We’re also looking at how to integrate a wait space for Uber and Lyft,” Chatfield said. He said a space for the ride-share services is being treated as an amenity that would provide a comfortable area for residents and visitors to sit while waiting to be picked up.

Brent Schwetzer got a surprise when his mother showed up at the event to see him present.
Holland Partner Group's Brent Schertzer and his mother, who surprised him by showing up to see him present

“Parking is expensive to build,” Schertzer said. “We’re seeing a decrease in demand and don’t want to have extra parking spaces.”

With on-demand transportation like Uber, Lyft and FRED (Free Ride Everywhere in Downtown) popular, Holland is implementing a design change that provides people a comfortable place to wait for a ride.

Pennington said mass transit is a big part of the parking solution.

“People can now park their car in the morning and ride FRED all day long,” she said. “The extension of the Trolley from East Village to the UCSD campus is a huge game-changer.”

The $2.1B Mid-Coast Trolley extension of the Blue Line between downtown and La Jolla’s University Towne Center will provide access to the UCSD campus and medical center and other hospitals, as well as provide stops in Bay Park, Clairemont, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach. A proposed Purple Line between the South Bay and Kearny Mesa will connect riders to the Green Line in Mission Valley, which runs from downtown all the way east to Santee.

Making East Village Projects Work For The Community

Left to right are: Rick Miltimore, Stacey Pennington, James Chatfield, Brent Schertzer and Robert LaFever.
Rick Miltimore, Stacey Pennington, James Chatfield, Brent Schertzer and Robert LaFever

Miltimore also wanted to know what sort of data collection or strategies were used to gain community support for East Village projects. Makers Quarter makes up six blocks of East Village, Pennington said.

“We knew we had to get it right,” she said.

The Makers Quarter development/planning team launched a strategy six years ago to engage the community in developing a cultural ecosystem around Makers Quarter and revitalization and transformation of East Village from a rundown industrial district to a live/work/play village.

Makers Quarter began by creating Smarts Farm, a community garden that engaged 1,500 low-income, underserved children in the East Village neighborhood, teaching them about healthy eating, how to grow a garden and art. This was followed by establishing two entertainment venues, Quartyard San Diego, a temporary park made up of repurposed shipping containers at Park Boulevard and Market Street, and SILO, a community gathering space, which was recently relocated, that hosts events and has attracted 125,000 neighborhood residents.

“People want to be in Makers Quarter because of the value and culture we’re creating,” Pennington said.

She said the community is the result of collaboration between the creative, tech and real estate sectors.

“Back in the early days of Ballpark Village (this project has been in the pipeline for 17 years), it was important to get the message out this would be a live/work/play project,” Chatfield said. The project also provides 27 affordable units for the neighborhood’s low-income residents.

Developers Discuss Concerns About 'Future-Proofing' Projects Built Today

“When we build real estate, we need to have a gauge for how people will use it, which is what excites me,” LaFever said. “We figure that out by involving our property management people in all our meetings. They know how tenants use spaces, but most data on use comes from our residents.”

Chatfield said his team also monitors online comments of neighborhood residents, giving people who live there a voice at the table.

Pennington suggested conducting community surveys, particularly in regard to programming or energizing open spaces.

“These spaces have to be activated by the heart and soul of the community,” she said. 

Planning Projects With The Future In Mind

Developers Discuss Concerns About 'Future-Proofing' Projects Built Today
Architect Tom Greer, a principal at Togawa Smith Martin, and Bisnow's Abrigale James

Miltimore also asked what is going into projects that is new or unique.

Chatfield said the high cost of building in California limits the amount of new technologies going into projects. Projects cost 15% to 20% more here than elsewhere due to the lengthy entitlement and environmental processes, including Title 24, stormwater and the California Environmental Quality Act requirements, he said.

“The lines are getting blurred between real estate types,” he said. “Office wants a bar in the lobby so it feels more like a hotel. Apartments are competing with hotel guests.”

And with the way people work, office space is being added as an amenity in residential projects, particularly in residential lobbies as alternative or co-working space for people working from home.

“I think there is a push to make residential spaces work better by making projects more mixed-use, before bringing in technologies,” he said.

Pennington said there is a need to future-proof everything. Block D in Makers Quarter is the first downtown San Diego building designed to achieve net-zero energy, she said.

“If the city provides smart-city infrastructure, we’ll plug into to it,” Schertzer said.

Chatfield said the new UCSD campus will be the first to showcase innovative building technologies. As for residential tenants, he believes they have a higher interest in amenities than technology, but said Ballpark Village will provide electric vehicle charging stations.