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The tower of Hillcrest is called Аврòрa, but don't call it a hotel

The tower of Hillcrest is called Аврòра.
Photo credit:
The RED Office

The skyline in the heart of Hillcrest is pretty unremarkable and it has been that way for some time. In fact, there are a lot of people who wish to keep it as low-key as possible objecting to projects that go over a certain height of say, a palm tree.

But the new Аврòра structure on Fourth and Robinson Avenues seems to tower over the historic district like a giant ship, and that's no coincidence.

The interiors are fashioned after luxury seafaring cabin cruisers. And like those ships, space is limited but the extravagance isn't. 

With the intent to offer spaces both for the short or long-term, Аврòра recently opened and it's already raised a few eyebrows mostly because of pricing. 

A Captain Quarters loft will run you $242 (USD) a day while a standard "cabin" asks $127. But they also offer daily yoga classes, workshops and other events in the rooftop solarium. 

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News talked to architect and owner of Аврòрa, Armistead Smith, to have him further explain the concept and what it means for the community. 

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News: First, how do you pronounce it?

Armistead "Ted" Smith: I would say it like it reads in English, with accent on the middle syllable. AB po' pa. The capital B is just to make it look more Russian.    

SDGLN: Is it open yet?   

Smith: Yes, we have rented most of the Micro loft apartments and many are occupied. 

SDGLN: Who designed it, and how would that design best be described?  

Smith: I designed the building, The RED office, the organization that Kathy and I are designating to inherit our sweat equity development practice, carried out the plans, permits, and construction. We had an unusual time for us, furnishing the lofts.

Kathy McCormick did the interiors, designed and had built the couches, searched for the most un IKEA furnishings, mostly a few at a time,  did a bunch of re-upholstering, picked the finishes, and had great fun putting some wallpaper and wainscots up for a change. Usually, our lofts are pretty Spartan.    

SDGLN: How to describe the interior layout?  

Smith: Let me see, That’s quite a story, and it’s probably too long to tell here, but let me try.

The design is a micro loft proposal that explores split levels as a way to achieve extraordinary space in a volume smaller than a hotel room. 

It is a design that considers the advantages of a fold-away bathroom in that same pursuit, and it is a design that considers an alternate way to put the needed sized building on a site.

ABpo’pa, is 20’ wide on a 50’ lot.  The skinny “tower” is the same height as recent bulky developments in Hillcrest, but looks taller because of its proportion. The building leaves two 15’ side yards, setting way back from neighbors and allowing

light and space to mitigate the unavoidable issues associated with densified transit-oriented projects. I hope observers will compare the design to a typical six story apartment building that fills the whole site. 

SDGLN: Who or what company owns the boutique?.

Smith: ABpo’pa is owned by a partnership of the landowners and the RED office.The RED Office is a sweat equity practice that partners with landowners in pursuit of "The New Walkable City." Members all work for an equal hour’s pay, determining their percentage owned as a simple part of all the hours spent.

That is why the Abpo’pa is named after the Russian vessel where the Communist Revolution began way back in those heady days of idealism.  The RED office hopes to be as idealistic. 

SDGLN: Can we call it a hotel? 

Smith: Let's call it a Micro loft,  which is a housing type that can support many types of loft living.

There are four resident managers. One manager/entrepreneur occupies a small shopkeepers residence with a specialty shop, Soet.

Another is a well known San Diego musician subsidizing his income with a vinyl record shop. In another loft, the artist that filled the rooms with original art has a studio, and one micro loft contains an office for a young architect, who helped create the building as a member of the RED office and who like most of those wonderful people that bring culture to a neighborhood, are not rewarded with large incomes in the pursuit of artistic dreams.

So you could call part of the building at least subsidized housing.

In this case, subsidized by the hard work of the managers who all trade work for housing and a piece of the action. The top of the building is a penthouse, where the landowners look forward to an eventual rolling retirement with a view of the city in an elevator building while they live an active social life, hosting yoga, weddings and dinner parties.

And there are lofts available to rent short term where leaseholders offer vacation rentals.  

SDGLN: What amenities are there?

Smith: There is a ground floor cafe,  sandwich place, and beer and wine bar,  that we should have up and running by spring of next year. In the meantime, we have a popular coffee cart ( Por Vida ) parked out front and occasional tacos.  

But we hope our main amenity is the unique experience these unusual spaces offer visitors and residents. 

SDGLN: How is it different than staying in a mainstream hotel?

Smith: Micro lofts and the variety of housing and living options they can accommodate,  the buildings unusual management by residents who are connected and participants in local culture,  are the antithesis of a mainstream hotel.