Design Principal Michael Johnson, AIA, NCARB, spoke to GlobeSt.com regarding incorporating educational uses in mixed-use projects – specifically the recent groundbreaking of the Park + Market project which includes a 66,000 s.f. creative office space operated by UC San Diego Extension. UC San Diego Urban, as dubbed by the university, will feature technological exhibits, lectures, forums, performance space and artwork.
GlobeSt.com: How does UC San Diego fit into the design and uses at Park + Market?
Michael Johnson, AIA, NCARB: “This was the result of a design competition with the City, which owned two pieces of property Downtown. When the state took away redevelopment agencies, the City had two properties—Park & Market and 7th & Market—and decided to put the money it received from a land sale into an affordable housing fund for the two properties. When the design competition began, the criteria was mixed-use, but there were no criteria for what the mixed use would contain. The 66,000 square feet that UC-San Diego will occupy was designed with retail at the base and could have involved any type of user. At one time, they were looking at office above with a grocer at the ground level or education or any use that would fit within the zone. With the UC-San Diego space, we designed a project that was rather agnostic to a user, other than a ground plane that had to be transparent. The facades related more to natural daylight and a south-east-west orientation, and so UC San Diego ultimately became the tenant of that space. It was not a typical build-to suit, where we were working with them from the beginning.”
GlobeSt.com: Is using the educational element in mixed-use projects a new concept?
Michael Johnson, AIA, NCARB: “It’s not that unusual for us. One of our core disciplines or project types is mixed-use urban designs. Jefferson Law School has a restaurant in the base of it Downtown. There’s a lot of work going on at UCSD, and they are incorporating mixed-use attitudes into it—either retailing capabilities or living and learning, sharing student housing with dining halls and retailers. They might have an REI as a retailer because obviously students surf, etc.; they’ll try different mixes within. They’re trying to make it more community-like and smarter. UC-San Diego is anti-car—it’s either transit or walk or bike—and we’re seeing more and more of that. This project was a natural for UC-San Diego; they wanted to come Downtown, and the trolley stop is right there at the project. It’s a natural connection from offsite to
Downtown UC-San Diego.”
GlobeSt.com: What synergies exist between educational uses and other uses in mixed-use projects?
Michael Johnson, AIA, NCARB: “It could be an Apple store, Google. As high-tech as digitally oriented as we all are today, but particularly students, in the base of educational facility we haven’t seen medical. We have facilities in other markets where residents can actually rent a pod on a ground level to have a business. San Diego is one of the leaders in startup companies, and there are a lot of these small startups or individuals that just need a spot, a space. So, we see a lot of those in mixed-use, which is a completely different type of use from what you’ve seen in mixed-use, but you’re seeing this movement on campuses right now. What was significantly different about this project is that the private development came first, and they have embraced the private development. Rather than the university being a major client, they’re developing mixed-use as part of their educational dollars. This is a different model than what we’ve seen.”
GlobeSt.com: What else should our readers know about this project?
Michael Johnson, AIA, NCARB: “The amenities are great. The project will have a top-floor club room with a patio in the tower; a pool deck with grilling stations, fire pits and lounge seating; a two-story fitness center with a yoga and spinning room; a casual-entertainment and game room; a resident dog run; a public and private amphitheater with a large movie screen; and a leasing resident lounge and business center. A historic house will have to move offsite because of the subterranean parking; we’ll be turning the building from its original orientation to open up the plaza more, but it will likely be a restaurant. The project is also sustainable, with a green roof on top of the UC-San Diego building. Daylighting is extremely important. UC-San Diego Urban, which is what they’re calling it, is the education piece, and it will feature a mix of uses, including technological exhibits, lectures, forums, performance space and artwork to foster a greater connection between San Diego and the university. Students will also have access to 5,465-square-foot plaza, which is on the second level. Of the 426-unit residential tower, 5% of the units will be three-bedroom; there will be fewer three-bedroom units Downtown because it’s less extended-family oriented. Also, it will feature 85 affordable-housing units
that will comprise 20% of the residential unit mix, which is twice what the city requires.”