By Joe Tash/Contributor
The owners of the Flower Hill Promenade shopping center on Via de la Valle to the east of Interstate 5 hope to break ground on a $25 million renovation and expansion project by the middle of next year, a spokesman for the company said.
The proposal includes demolition of an existing UltraStar Cinema and construction of a new building to house a Whole Foods Market, retail and office space, along with a new four-story parking garage. The center would be expanded from its existing 112,000 square feet to 173,000 square feet, said Chris Wahl, spokesman for developer Protea Properties.
The project will include a facelift for the existing buildings. Wahl said the project is needed to revitalize the center and bring in new customers for all of its tenants, which include restaurants and an eclectic mix of specialty shops.
“The bottom line is a lot more people go to a Whole Foods than to a four-plex movie theater. That is the future of Flower Hill,” Wahl said.
In July, the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board gave its approval of the project on an 11-3 vote, with the support of the Spindrift homeowners association, whose members live in condominiums directly behind Flower Hill Promenade.
Wahl said the association’s support was crucial to gaining the favorable vote from the community planning group. Sprindrift residents had been concerned about a proposal to move Flower Hill Drive — which they use to access their neighborhood — behind the Taste of Thai restaurant at the east end of the center.
When the developer agreed to support leaving the street where it is, the association voted to support the project, said association president Horace Dietrich.
Not everyone supports the plan. Robert Vicino, with the group Citizens Against Flower Hill’s Excessive Expansion (and the website
), said the proposal calls for too much new construction.
“The bottom line is they’re trying to overbuild the site, the traffic counts are probably the best evidence of that,” Vicino said. “It just doesn’t fit the character of the community.”
Vicino said that if the project is approved by the city, his group and perhaps others will likely challenge the plan in court.
The developer is currently re-circulating the project’s environmental impact report to include a “no relocation” alternative for Flower Hill Drive. The public comment period for the revised EIR ends Jan. 11, said Wahl.
The project could then go before the San Diego Planning Commission by late January or early February, said Wahl, and before the San Diego City Council by late February. According to Wahl, the council will have the final say on whether the project goes forward.
The 33-year-old shopping center has successfully attracted tenants and customers because of its unique ambiance, said Wahl, “and if we don’t keep up with the times, Flower Hill won’t survive.”