The Grove development planned for vacant Carmel Valley lot

The vacant Pell property is being developed as a research and development center. (Photo taken in 2019)
The vacant Pell property is being developed as a research and development center. (Photo taken in 2019)
(Karen Billing)

At the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s February meeting, the board heard an update on plans for the proposed Alexandria project on El Camino Real, the vacant lot at the edge of Del Mar Highlands Town Center.

Known as the “Pell property,” the site was vacant for many years, home to just red ranch buildings that were partially concealed by overgrown shrubs and trees—the site has been unoccupied since the property was purchased by Alexandria in 2018.

Alexandria specializes in developments for life science and technology companies—sample tenants in its San Diego campuses include Illumina, Celgene Corporation, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute and the Scripps Research Institute.

The new Alexandria development will be called The Grove, a nod to the longstanding trees on the property.

According to Stephen Pomerenke, vice president of design and construction of Alexandria, plans for the property include a main building for life science research and development, a pavilion and a parking garage. The parking garage will be partially below ground with a landscaped roof to decrease visibility; the garage will also be available to Del Mar Highlands guests after 6 p.m. on weekdays and all day on the weekends.

Numerous trees will be left as part of the landscape and the building is proposed to be constructed from sustainable timber which has a lower carbon footprint than other materials and is naturally fire retardant.

According to Pomerenke, there will also be a walkway connecting pedestrians from El Camino Real to the pavilion allowing people to cross through the property.

The planning board was mixed on the project’s design and several members provided comment that the architecture was too “boxy.” Board member Danielle McCallion was also not in favor of a proposed art piece of a lighthouse on the side of the building.The project will require a community plan amendment from a “town center” designation to “employment center” in order to allow for a research and development use. Chair Frisco White asked for increased community benefits to offset the zoning change, such as board member Ken Farinsky’s suggestion for an improved sidewalk design along Townsgate Drive.

Alexandria representatives plan to return to the planning board as plans evolve, the project is expected to go to the San Diego Planning Commission in the summer.