What's That Lot: A 'Vertical Power Center' That Never Got Off the Ground - Voice of San Diego

Growth and Housing

What's That Lot: A 'Vertical Power Center' That Never Got Off the Ground

Developer Merlone Geier announced plans to build on a lot at Commercial Street and National Avenue near Petco Park in 2008, but the lot still sits empty.

Where’s that lot? The lot is in San Diego’s East Village neighborhood, just south of Petco Park and the Central Library. It’s on the corner of Commercial Street and National Avenue, next to the transit center on Imperial Avenue and 12th Street.

whats-that-lot-newWho owns that lot? According to city records, the two parcels on the southern end of the block are owned by developer Merlone Geier. The other two parcels, which are on the northern end of the block, adjacent to the transit center, are owned by San Diego Metropolitan Transit System.

How’s that lot used? The lot is fenced off and empty, except for a few large tanks near the 16th Street side, a porta-potty and a whole mess of litter.

Why are we picking on that lot? Geier announced its plan for a “vertical power center” in 2008, but the 5-acre lot is still vacant. Even though the permits were only expected to take a few months, the developers never broke ground. Civic San Diego still lists the development as an upcoming project on its website, even though the links are all dead.

The developer never actually acquired all of the land even though it planned to build up the entire block.

The two parcels near the trolley station are still used by MTS and the company has no plans to redevelop the property, said Rob Schupp, a spokesman for MTS.

Merlone Geier’s executive managing director, Scott McPherson, said the company also has no plans for its property. He blamed the economic downturn of 2008 for the project’s failure, but wouldn’t provide any other details.

When I asked about the tanks, he said he wasn’t aware of any building materials on the property but that someone else could be using the land for something.

Maria Torres, a receptionist at Reliable Pipe Supply across the street, said that dirt is removed from the lot for motocross and monster truck events.

She said that although a shopping center across the street would be nice, she isn’t surprised it never happened.

“You don’t want to be here after it gets dark,” said Torres.

Jim Sultana, Reliable Pipe Supply’s general manager, has worked across the street for 28 years. His company was established on National Avenue in 1935. This year, it announced plans to relocate.

He’s not surprised the shopping center never happened, either.

“I wouldn’t want to build here,” Sultana said. “Everybody seems to be going to National City just because of all the homelessness here.”

He said the lot used to be owned by an oil company. City records confirmed that the land was used as a storage facility by Union Oil, which became Unocal. Since then, the lot has been vacant.

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