Board approves of The Grove in Carmel Valley

A rendering of The Grove, an office building planned for El Camino Real and Townsgate Drive.

On May 28, the Carmel Valley Community Planning board unanimously approved The Grove, a new life science research and development building on the corner of El Camino Real and Townsgate Drive.

Previously 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 and the old structures have since been torn down.

The Grove’s office building on the corner is proposed to be constructed from sustainable timber with three stories of “walking trusses” and exposed exterior walkways with a central courtyard full of greenery and trees that sits between the main building and a parking garage. With a nod to the site’s history, numerous trees will be left as part of the landscape and Alexandria plans to plant The Grove with over 80 new trees.

The courtyard of the Grove project, as viewed from the Sky Deck of Del Mar Highlands Town Center.

“This building has really been beautifully crafted, it will be one of one. There isn’t a commercial wood building of this scale anywhere in San Diego,” said Stephen Pomerenke, vice president of design and construction of Alexandria Real Estate Equities. “The dynamic structure exposed on the lower three levels, the exterior walkways, the elegance of the lace on the upper portions and how that complements our concept of the Grove…it’s going to be a significant piece of architecture that I think will stand out proudly.”

Pomerenke said he believed they had addressed the board’s concerns from their February meeting about the building being “too boxy” and have removed a lighthouse mural that was proposed on the western side of the building.

They also provided a rendering to show how the building, at 91 feet, will fit in between the 64-foot tall new Sky Deck at Del Mar Highlands Town Center and the 125-foot tall One Paseo office building across the street.

Several board members still had concerns that the parking garage was too visible. Board member Ken Farinsky had particular concerns about there being a big white wall on the El Pollo Loco side.

Pomerenke said that the parking garage will be partially below ground with a landscaped roof, and the goal is to create dense planting of trees and shrubs so it eventually becomes green walls. There will also be a framed art mural to help decrease visibility. To help with parking, the garage will also be available to Del Mar Highlands guests after 6 p.m. on weekdays and all day on the weekends.

A rendering of the parking garage as it will be seen from El Camino Real.

The board members said they would still like to see more effort to minimize the impact of the parking garage as viewed from El Camino Real but voted unanimously to move the project through to city review.

CV Planning Board Chair Frisco White complimented Alexandria for being responsive to their input.

“You’ve done a wonderful job, you’ve taken the extra effort to let us be involved,” White told Pomerenke. “It’s wonderful to see a wood structure here because we’ve had so much steel and concrete. I think this is a breath of fresh air.”

The project will now move on to the San Diego Planning Commission and San Diego City Council for approval. According to Lesley Henegar, a senior planner with the city, the city has concerns about the street frontage and pedestrian connectivity on such a prominent corner.

“We want that corner to be inviting for the pedestrians, to encourage them to be using the sidewalk day and night to access the shopping mall,” Henegar said. “We don’t want to see something go in that’s not conducive to inviting pedestrians.”