An ugly parking lot in San Diego is about to be reborn as affordable housing to preserve and revitalize the Little Italy neighborhood

In the Little Italy area of San Diego, California, an underutilized site sits at 1460 India Street. Currently a parking lot, it used to house a small, takeaway Mexican restaurant. The restaurant closed in December 2017, and the nondescript building will be demolished to allow for redevelopment.

On January 9, 2020, local residents learned what form of new life will take its place. That’s when Forge Development Partners (Forge), a privately held San Francisco real estate development firm, has announced its acquisition of the property. With this acquisition, Forge hopes to perpetuate the workforce history and legacy of the area that is Little Italy.

The property as it looks today.

The property was purchased from the Asaro family who have called Little Italy home since the 1940s. Forge plans to redevelop the property into a world class high-rise building providing some 265 rental units of workforce housing for the City of San Diego. Preserving and supporting the working class tradition of the area was a guiding objective in the development of this project.

True to this tradition, this redevelopment will be privately-financed and not government subsidized. This project was made possible as the result of initiatives developed and supported by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. These initiatives have helped streamline and reduce the construction processes and costs making possible the development of housing for the middle income worker.

Forge Founder, Richard Hannumm, said “We are pleased that the forward thinking of the Mayor’s Office has created an environment where projects like 1460 India Street can flourish. With the help of our partners, we will reimagine what privately-financed workforce housing can provide to the community – housing that meets the needs of today’s working families while keeping rental costs low.” Forge, in partnership with a world-renowned architecture firm, will utilize innovative design, construction processes and building systems as well as the latest technology to produce high-quality, sustainable living units for the San Diego workforce.

We’ve adopted several housing reforms to make it easier, faster and cheaper to build in San Diego,” said Mayor Faulconer. “Now we’re starting to see builders take advantage of those new opportunities with projects like this and lowering costs with our revamped parking standards and streamlined permitting process.”

The previous owners of 1460 India Street, the Asaro family, are known as the “sons of Little Italy” and elected to sell the property to Forge because of their commitment to preserve the working-class legacy of the neighborhood. The building will include a mix of studio, one, two and three-bedroom units with state-of-the-art full kitchens, bathrooms and open living areas targeted for the modern working family.

The glass façade will showcase the spectacular views from residences and emphasize the contemporary feel of the development. An abstract sculptural frieze, called Sogno D’Argento by family member and world-renowned artist, John Asaro, will pay homage to Little Italy’s past as a working-class Italian and Portuguese neighborhood that once was the center of the west coast tuna fishing industry. It will be a prominent part of the building design and complement the existing neighborhood art.

I wanted to honor the history of Little Italy,” said John Asaro. “As I was designing the frieze, I was inspired by the neighborhood fishermen, the tuna and porpoises who often swam together, and the churned-up water and waves – all interacting together. The bent abstract shapes of the frieze represent this interaction.

Joint venture equity for the acquisition was provided through a partnership between Forge and RealtyMogul, an online crowdfunding platform allowing investors to invest in high quality commercial real estate assets.

CEO of RealtyMogul, Jilliene Helman, concluded “We are thrilled to be partnering with Forge in this investment to give individual investors the chance to invest in the construction and management of a Class A high rise multifamily apartment building in the heart of San Diego – an opportunity they traditionally would not have.

Forge anticipates construction to begin in fall 2020.

All images courtesy of Forge.

See Forge website.

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