I well remember this building at 2424 5th Avenue. It was certainly past its glory days during my time. Yet the structure was most pleasing to the eye. And it was easy to imagine the swank dinner parties and gay evenings it hosted. I hoped somebody with deep pockets with a keen ability to reinvigorate old venues would come along and rescue the site. Make it an elegant retro theme restaurant, perhaps.
But this is what we got. This looming four layer hulk of High Spanish Strip-Mall Post Generic Colonial architecture (sic), Developers love the word “mitigate.” The overbearing and disproportionate size of this monster is “mitigated” with those oh so lovely arched vinyl windows, the bay vinyl windows, those world class balconies, and the charming little pergola effect. It appears to be a Spanish tile roof. I don’t know how many blocks away you have to be in order to see those tiles. From here it appears like a hair curler job from a bad beauty parlor. But hey, Starbucks is there–why should I complain?
This Egyptian theme block of Park Boulevard has always appealed to me although I never knew the theater as The Egyptian. I remember it as a Modern style remodel known as The Capri. I saw a number of movies there including Battle Of The Bulge and The Blue Max. More change came later and it was called The Park.
It seems when grand old buildings are facing their demise, they seem to linger in limbo as shabby wrecks just waiting to be put out of their misery. People become sick of the eye sore and are relieved when a wrecking ball finally arrives. In this instance there was great support for the proposed Egyptian Condo project because the concept was pitched attractively. Preserving an historic site and developing the property in a sensitive attractive way. So they said.
But this is what we got. That’s the amputated remains of the poor little Egyptian Theater sandwiched in the middle there and dwarfed by this 80 unit seven level condo/retail behemoth. San Diego City Planning Directors are in love with this project and happily point to it as the future of San Diego. The long term plan is to turn away from suburb development and start “filling in” the urban areas. The concept makes sense, urban sprawl is almost sprawled out. However if San Diego’s past planning is any indication of the future, don’t expect anything different than what you got with the excesses in Mission Valley. My objection to The Egyptian as poster child of San Diego’s future is this: It is too much; it is too big all in one place. If these sheer vertical walls are going to be packed into one city block after another, all human scale is lost. The street view will no longer include any semblance viewable horizon. The sky and sunny weather, the aspects that make San Diego so desirable, will only be viewable if you happen to be looking straight up. Areas that now bask in sunshine will be shade corridors. Canyons of concrete and steel. With that you may as well be in Chicago or New York except for the harsh winters.
Another building I thought was akin to Valle’s restaurant on 2424 5th Avenue was this dry cleaner on Park Boulevard, just down the street from The Egyptian. Some remember it was a car dealer before it was a dry cleaner. It is another fine looking building obliterated from the landscape and replaced by something much larger.
Note that the original building was copied for the first level of the new structure. The size of the building almost detracts one’s attention from that. Also compare the before and after in terms of how much blue sky and viewable horizon is lost. Having said that, however,several things occur here that are lacking in the Egyptian Project.
First of all the scale is not as punishing to the site. The designer took into account the character of the original structure and really worked with it throughout.
The critically significant element I like here besides the fact it isn’t an obese structure is that the upper levels are set back from the lower structure. At the sidewalk perspective, next to the building, you see blue sky–not a towering wall to the top. Compare this with the Egyptian Condo perspective shown below.
The structures oppressive weight at this vantage point would have been lightened if the upper levels were set farther back. But that means less square feet to sell; less money to be made. Reportedly the Egyptian Condo interiors are spacious and well designed. And the views are incredible. However that will only be a selling point until the next hulk of development comes along and blocks their view.
I don’t dislike the Moderne Art theme of the project. Kudos to the green tile facade of the street level.
To be fair, The Egyptian is a whole lot better than these two ugly bettys. These monsters tower over the already husky Egyptian.
Frosted glass balconies and gray anodized metal trim on the street side of the building is much nicer than stark looming concrete walls. But in my opinion this project would have worked wonderfully at the site of La Boheme in North Park. But as a stand alone, without the odd insertion of the historic movie theater’s scalp in the middle of it.
There are other Egyptian theme retail spaces across the street from the Condos. The look of this block really points well to the time in history when King Tut’s tomb was discovered. When King Tut/Egyptian design became all the rage.
The Nile Apartments are just a spec on the blacktop compared to the mighty condo structure.
Back in the day when The Egyptian Theater was king of the block, and the corner was occupied by a Mobil Station.
Another site erased from the urban landscape, Aztec Bowl.
I wonder if any of the signs were salvaged. If nothing else it would be a nice addition to someone’s Americana collection.
At least the developers didn’t turn a complete blind eye to the historical aspect of the site. The main sign was not only kept but completely restored.
The Aztec Bowl sign today. Although it was meant to be seen above the roof line (The Aztec head seems a bit bizarre viewed so closely) the outstanding neon is still a welcome site and a nice reminder of what was.
As much as I’m not a fan of High Spanish Strip-Mall Post Generic Colonial architecture, this development at least did not completely vaporize the past elements of the site. And there are a few pluses. The height is not over bearing. The project is not one big hulk. There is division of structure with garden openings in between. You can catch glimpses of the sky and have a sense of horizon beyond the building. You’re not staring at a solid towering mass of stucco, gunite, or shotcrete.
Another loss that occurred with the development of this block was the Gustafson’s Furniture Store. Although I much rather see old venues restored and adapted to new uses, the developers at least rendered the replacement structure (shown here) with replicated features.
Gustafson’s before it’s demolition. The original used glass blocks both horizontally and vertically.
The replacement condo structure. The horizontal glass blocks gave way to typical windows. Red trim
The best news to emerge from all the construction dust, Rudford’s was left alone. This photo was taken before development of the block began. For once it was “G.G.G.,” good news for the good old good ones.
The Godzilla of North Park, La Boheme. I don’t relish “dishing” this tubby block-hog because North Park has been in an earnest effort to emerge as a first rate urban village ever since I can remember. This project is supposed to bring in a fresh new population to jump start the retail outlets, the eateries and coffee houses. As of this moment “the word on the street” isn’t all good news concerning La Boheme. From the blog San Diego, Just Another Day In Paradise comes this observation: “I was on the verge of buying a condo until I noticed that a group of townhouses on the same block were for sale as well. When I looked at the townhouses, they were much nicer than the condos, had ALL the upgrades, had a private garage and were in the same price range as the condos. What struck me as odd was that the townhouses weren’t selling. If the townhouses weren’t selling, then that doesn’t speak well for the future of the La Boheme condos which weren’t nearly as nice.”
This ghastly gargantua has 300 condos! Such projects now line one end of Mission Valley to the next. I see them along Mission Gorge Road near the Mission Trails outdoor preserve. The push was on to line them up in the older established neighborhoods in the city. However a sour economy and a glut of inventory seems to have stalled the march of “progress” somewhat. But some “bad idea” projects are already slated no matter what. One that comes to mind is a retail complex due for Adams Avenue called Kensington Terrace. It is another example of BIG as the foremost feature. Check out the blog Dialed In: San Diego. This project is opposed by a majority of residents of Kensington. Developers were given a free pass by City Planning Directors and City Council for not following existing zone height limits for the area. The residents appealed to City Council to allow further impact studies of the project. When it came to vote, there were only two council members who listened to the will of this neighborhood. All others pledged allegiance to the developers. After all, campaigning for office takes money. And there are good jobs to be had as spokespersons and lobbyists once they leave office. But the good people of Kensington are fighting back with a law suit. Like myself, they’re not against reasonable well planned development. They just want it to be size appropriate to the character of the neighborhood. And they don’t want this project shoved down their throats without the proper study of its impact on the neighborhood and the environment. Hear! Hear!
How about those La Boheme curly cues? That helps!
I’ve heard the comment “Oh you’re just against “progress.” Or, “well that’s just progress and how it is.” I respectfully suggest progress as defined for the past one hundred years is now obsolete. There are no western plains to be setteled, no more territories for Statehood. The three major cities of California all have their sports franchises, an abundance of shopping malls, mile after mile of freeways, and tons of condos. From my view point, one hundred years from now (if the species survives), the cities that were successful at planning a pleasing and livable environment will be the most desired and valued cities in the country. Not the ones that simply plan for stacking in the greatest number of architectural file cabinets as human habitation. But growth and progress is still the mantra in San Diego. Even in light of NEWS stating Lake Meade will be bone dry in a matter of years, the priority here is to pack in as many people even if there is no water to sustain the population. Managed Growth or Slow Growth are viewed by many as dirty words. I believe the issue needs a lot more consideration. Scaling back these monster projects is not only good for the urban aesthetic quality now but is good for the future.