By Joe Tash
A $25 million expansion and renovation of the Flower Hill Promenade shopping center on Via De La Valle is moving forward on schedule, and a new Whole Foods market and other businesses could be open by the end of the year.
The mall on Via De La Valle, just east of Interstate 5, will be expanded from its existing 112,000 square feet to 173,000 square feet with the addition of new retail and office space and a four-level parking garage at the west end of the property. An Ultra Star cinema was demolished to make way for the new buildings.
The center is within the city limits of San Diego, although it is advertised as “Del Mar’s premier shopping experience” on its website.
In December, the final legal hurdle to the project was eliminated, when San Diego Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager rejected a lawsuit filed by a citizens group, said attorney Robin Madaffer, who represents Protea Properties, the owner of the shopping center.
The lawsuit, filed by Citizens Against Flower Hill’s Excessive Expansion, had challenged the project on environmental grounds. Robert Vicino, a spokesman for the group, could not be reached for comment on whether the group plans to appeal Prager’s decision.
Also, the California Coastal Commission voted in September that it did not have jurisdiction over the project, clearing a challenge that had been raised by the commission’s staff in San Diego, said Madaffer.
Construction began in July, following a unanimous approval of the project in April by the San Diego City Council.
Property manager Rose Jabin said Protea plans to turn one of the new buildings over to Whole Foods in June, and the grocery company will need four to five months to make interior improvements before the store opens to the public. If the store does not open by Nov. 15, she said, the opening will be delayed until after the first of the year, as the company has a “blackout period” over the busy holiday season when it does not open new stores.
The project also includes 28,000 square feet of new office space, and 8,900 square feet of new retail space, said Jabin.
“We’re working with those prospective tenants now,” she said.
One new tenant, Between the Sheets, has opened in the space formerly occupied by Papachino’s restaurant, Jabin said.
The project will also include a facelift for the existing buildings in the center. Current tenants are supportive of the project, she said. “We’re re-signing leases, people are extending their leases.”
The new parking structure will contain about 400 parking spaces. “That will provide ample parking for the new uses and other people coming to the center,” Jabin said.
The main entrance to the shopping center on Via De La Valle will be expanded to add an additional lane, making it easier for visitors to get into and out of the center, and new landscaping will also be installed as part of the renovation project.
So far, the project has not encountered weather delays or other hindrances, Jabin said. “We’re pretty much on schedule.”