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301 University project in Hillcrest deemed "not historic"

SAN DIEGO -- Construction work on the new Walgreens store planned for 301 University Ave. in Hillcrest will soon resume, as city planners have deemed the property "not historic."

According to HillQuest.com, San Diego's senior Historic Planner, Kelley Stanco, has advised community members that the city has determined that too many of the original features of the building have been altered for anything to be saved, so demolition will continue.

"Although portions of the original Streamline Moderne detailing in the parapet remain, the overall historic and material integrity of the building has been substantially degraded through the removal of the original corner tower; the in-fill of all original store fronts; the addition of new openings along the primary elevation; and the removal of the wood louver detailing,” Stanco explained to HillQuest.

"As a result very little of the original building remains, and the building lacks integrity of design, materials, feeling and workmanship. Therefore, it has been determined that the building is not eligible for designation under any HRB Criteria."

San Diego Uptown News reported that construction work at the site was halted on Jan. 7 after a member of the community alerted officials of the property's potential historical significance.

The building that currently stands on the property has been vacant for a number of years, and was listed on Walgreen Corporation's construction application as being originally built in 1972. A facade of blue sheet metal had been placed around the building many years ago, masking the "Streamline Moderne" architecture that became visible once demolition began earlier this month.

Community activists, including representatives from the Hillcrest History Guild (HHG) were able to get a "stop work order" issued on Jan. 7, leaving the fate of the construction project in limbo.

City staff reviewed the project over the last couple of weeks, looking at additional information about the building supplied by the applicant - including a detailed permit history; visual diagrams and photographs illustrating alterations and the extent of missing historic materials; and a historic aerial photograph dated 1946 - and made the determination this week that construction can continue.

The building, which is situated across the street from the popular Urban Mo's Bar & Grill, has generated a flurry of opinions from community members on Social Media:

Jeffrey Sternchak: I'm at peet's coffee right now looking at the structure from across the street. There's nothing worth saving there. Please allow them to get rid of that eye sore.

Tyson Vogel: I usually support preservation of old architecture, but this is just ridiculous, its a pile of crap, there is nothing to save there!

Mark Roberts: The 1930's stream line is of great historical significance. Kudos to Mr. May for haulting the demolition. With pressure and good luck, Wallgreens will restore this "look" and give personality to what otherwise would have been another stucco box facing University.

Steven Shultz: Why not make it a pleasant little park? Christ knows we need more open green space in the older neighborhoods.

Dan Soderberg: I might also add the fusion of old elements with new has been successfully executed elsewhere in San Diego. Look no further than PetCo Park. The records at City Hall show that PetCo Park is not merely a ballpark, but technically it is an addition to a historic building, Western Metal Supply Co. ... The results are far more pleasing visually to the urban landscape than the run of the mill cookie cutter junk being hoisted up everywhere.

Prior to the "not historic" determination, HHG representatives told San Diego Uptown News that no matter what the outcome, they hope that Walgreens will incorporate some of the building's original features in the new store.

"What [we] hope will happen is that Walgreen will recognize that it would be a win-win for them and the neighborhood to use that building and that façade as their new Walgreens and it will be a wonderful addition to the neighborhood,” they said.

Walgreens Corp. was unable to be reached for comment.