Planning board approves updated design for The Grove

The new design for The Grove's parking garage as seen from El Camino Real.

Back in May, the Carmel Valley Community Planning board unanimously approved The Grove office project on the condition that the developers make an effort to minimize the impact of the parking garage on El Camino Real. On July 23, the board reviewed and approved Alexandria Real Estate Equities’ new design which helps screen the structure with plants and art.

The life science research and development building is planned for the corner of Townsgate Drive, on the vacant lot bordering Del Mar Highlands Town Center. The project now moves on to the San Diego Planning Commission and San Diego City Council for approval.

In June, Stephen Pomerenke, vice president of design and construction of Alexandria Real Estate Equities, presented ideas to soften the garage facade with a large artwork panel and greenery. After board input that the artwork emphasized the building’s mass, Pomerenke presented the further refined design in July, breaking up the art into a triptych with more green plants cascading on the garage walls between the three panels.

“Every opening has planters with the idea that plants would grow up and grow down and soften the whole facade,” Pomerenke said. “You helped us make a better project and we’re really excited about it.”

The 91-foot tall Grove’s office building is designed to be a unique wood structure, with the three lower stories exposed with “walking trusses,” exterior walkways and a central courtyard full of greenery and trees. Over 80 new trees are planned to be planted on the property.

Michael D’Ambrosia, a senior project manager at Alexandria, said the project is currently stuck in the city’s review process as they await San Diego City Council’s decision on the planning department’s Complete Communities initiative, which could happen in August.

The Complete Communities initiative include planning strategies that create incentives for developers to build homes near transit, provide more mobility choices and enhance opportunities for recreation.

D’Ambrosia said they are waiting to understand how the mobility part of the initiative will impact regulations for vehicle miles traveled reductions.

Some mitigations have already been included in the Grove’s design, such as making the project bicycle-friendly by providing bike storage, lockers and shower facilities.

During the project’s review in June, board member Allen Kashani asked if the pandemic has affected the plans for the office building project.

Pomerenke said Alexandria Real Estate is in a unique position in that they are a life science real estate investment trust and many of their long-term leases are with science companies. “Many of our tenants are on the forefront of the fight against COVID-19,” he said.

“We are in a niche that is thriving right now and doing pretty well and trying to keep up with the demand for life science research space,” Pomerenke said.

He said as a company, Alexandria is also considering design strategies that address the new realities of COVID such as more natural ventilation, open spaces and even rethinking restrooms.

To learn more about the Complete Communities plan, visit