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Proposed South Park Target Express store may face community review

SAN DIEGO, California -- Earlier this month, Target Corp., the nation’s second largest discount retailer, announced plans to open a location in the mid-city neighborhood of South Park.

The corporation will open a TargetExpress, a miniature version of a typical Target outlet, at 3030 Grape St., the current site of Gala Foods, which will close after 26 years on Oct. 18. Through a commercial real estate broker, Gala Foods owners, who plan on retaining ownership of the property and leasing it to Target, also plan to put a second, smaller building on the same parcel as TargetExpress. Such a building likely wouldn’t be open until late 2016, said the brokers, Flocke & Avoyer.

Target’s lease is expected to begin in November after the current store shutters. It will then undergo interior renovations before opening in July 2015, according to their press release.

The timeline for the future of the site depends on whether the city requires ministerial review or discretionary review of the changes. Ministerial review is a relatively straightforward process of submitting documents and obtaining rubber-stamp approval from the city. Discretionary review is a far more arduous and time-consuming process that often requires community input, public hearings and votes.

The property is located in a commercial zone that makes discretionary review likely for commercial developments — even when a new tenant plans to use the location for the same purpose as their predecessor — if they make changes to the site.

Lynda Pfeifer, a spokesperson for the city’s Development Services Department, said the degree of review will not be determined until Target submits their plans to the city. A Target spokesperson declined to answer questions about specific changes the company would make to the space, or when it would submit plans for city review.

Laurie Fisher, a local architect with 10 years of experience in the area, said that based on her experience, discretionary review will likely be required for a number of reasons, such as changing signage or increasing traffic flow to the neighborhood, both of which are likely.

“I worked with a restaurant in the area where all they did was paint the exterior and change the sign, and we still had to go through the planning group,” Fisher said.

Council President Todd Gloria, who represents South Park on the City Council, released a statement saying that from a preliminary standpoint, it did not appear discretionary review would be required. Because TargetExpress will not change the use of the store, it will likely only require ministerial review.

“Since this is not a regular model for the company, the template will not mirror the standard company format, and they will be incorporating some creative elements within the store,” Gloria stated. “I have asked that they reach out to the community and provide additional information about the project. As this process moves forward I will continue to engage with Target to ensure that the community’s voice is heard.”

Fisher’s biggest concern with the space is its potential impact on traffic. Many community members have pointed to the intersection of Fern and Grape streets, an already problematic four-way stop stretched around one corner of the proposed site.

“I’m assuming a TargetExpress is going to draw people from Downtown; it’s going to draw people from Bankers Hill and Hillcrest,” Fisher said. “So it would significantly increase the traffic at that intersection, that’s my main concern. I would hope that they require them to do a traffic study and explain how they’re going to manage all the traffic coming to the store.”

In Gloria’s statement, he said the burden of mitigating potential traffic increases would not fall on Target, because the there is no “change of use” on the property.

Even in ministerial review, the city can require developers to provide community amenities. Fisher said the city could potentially require Target to pay for the installation of stoplights at an impacted intersection.

Since the Gala Foods building is more than 45 years old, a historical review will also likely be required on the site. If anything is deemed historically significant about the site, it could limit what Target could alter about the space, although the corporation stated that it does not plan to change the exterior façade.

Extra baggage

Gala Foods owner Saad Hirmez told U-T San Diego that the large amount of renovations needed on the site motivated him to lease out the property. He estimated the cost of such renovations would fall between $3 and $4 million.

What may further complicate matters for both Hirmez and Target are the three other businesses that currently operate on the plot: a recycling center, a food truck and a drive-thru coffee stand.

Fisher said code complaints were submitted to the city regarding the recycling center and the drive-thru coffee stand for not receiving proper permits prior to operating. The city’s Code Enforcement Department did not respond to an inquiry about the status of such claims by the time of this article’s publication, though Pfeifer of the Development Services Department confirmed that there was an active code case on the site, but could not specify what it pertained to. She said such complaints would have to be addressed during the city’s review of Target’s plans.

Gloria stated that Target plans to keep all three businesses operating on the site.

Potential second site

Earlier this week, Flocke & Avoyer, the local commercial real estate firm representing Gala Foods owners, released information detailing a 5,000-square-foot space to be constructed the northeast corner of the Gala Foods Property. The firm’s Steve Avoyer said no formal plan for the site has been submitted to the city, with the project’s completion at least two years away. Construction of such a building would likely exacerbate concerns surrounding TargetExpress’s impact on traffic and parking in the surrounding area.

—Contact Hutton Marshall at hutton@sdcnn.com.

(Editor's note: This article was originally published on SDGLN media partner San Diego Uptown News.)