Downtown nominees for Orchids and Onions

Posted: September 1st, 2017 | Arts & Entertainment, Featured, News | No Comments

Your interest will push the final 10 forward but deadlines loom

By SDCNN Staff

The deadline for 2017 Orchids and Onions nominations has now passed and Downtown San Diego has a record-breaking number of nominees in the running for an Orchid at the awards ceremony on Oct. 26, presented by the San Diego Architectural Foundation (SDAF).

The public’s interest in each of nominees determines which of them move forward to a final vote by a panel selected by SDAF.

“Everything you see on the website currently is eligible for People’s Choice voting; however, only 10 Orchid nominations and 10 Onion nominations are selected from the whole list to be part of the voting pool,” said Craig Howard, a spokesperson for SDAF. “These projects are selected based off of a combination of factors: Views and comments to the project page on the O&O website, and likes/shares and comments on projects posted to Facebook/Instagram.

“Only the most popular projects are included in the voting pool,” he said. “This voting pool will be determined after the Labor Day weekend.”

This means voters need to get active. Categories include architecture, historic preservation, interior design, landscape architecture and a miscellaneous grouping.

In addition to the online voting, the public may also cast a vote for the “People’s Choice” award, choosing from the entire pool of nominated projects. This voting period will be announced after Labor Day.

As of press time, only four out of 97 total nominations countywide have been identified as Onion nominations, meaning a project lacks appeal. Those four include Washman Car Wash in Clairemont; the Starbucks on El Cajon Boulevard in North Park; Vue on 5th luxury residences in Bankers Hill; and the San Diego Airport Rental Car building in Midtown.

Those nominated for an Orchid mean the nominator highly approves of the project, and the majority of nominations are coming from the Downtown neighborhoods.

Editor’s note: Below we summarize the current nominees that come from Downtown neighborhoods, and while we include some of the text submitted with each nomination, most all have been edited for clarity and/or brevity.


Atmosphere — 1453 Fourth Ave.

  • Project owner/developer: Wakeland Housing and Development Corp.
  • Project architect/designer: Joseph Wong Design Associates

This is a new 31,800-square-foot, 205-unit, affordable-housing development sponsored by Wakeland, a San Diego certified nonprofit corporation. Atmosphere serves the broad range of people who need affordable housing, including 51 apartments that are designated as permanent supportive housing for San Diegans who have experienced homelessness. These safe, secure homes are coupled with onsite and off-site services that promote resident stability and well being. 

Celadon — 929 Ninth Ave.

  • Owner/developer: BRIDGE Housing
  • Architect/designer: SVA Architects/Studio E Architects

The building aesthetic is derived from its urban and environmental setting. A four-story base aligns with the historic fabric and scale of Broadway and creates a plinth to support a slender tower above. Angled bays on the west side are tilted to both protect from late afternoon setting sun and to direct interior views to the San Diego Bay and the ocean beyond. The concrete structural grid is expressed with infill panels of glass, corrugated metal siding and cement plaster. The terra cotta color of the infill metal panels was chosen for its warmth and appropriateness in the San Diego light and landscape. Sustainable features include naturally ventilated circulation spaces, appropriate shading on openings, solar thermal water heating and an expressive photovoltaic veil that provides for all of the common electrical needs of the building.

The Guild — 30th Street and Broadway

  • Owner/developer: McNamara Ventures/Agora Partners
  • Architect/designer: Studio E Architects

Set on the crest of the hill along Broadway as it reaches Golden Hill/South Park — this new townhome development takes full advantage of its site. Roof decks atop each home offer sweeping views of the bay and bridge to Downtown. Generous windows and skylights invite sunshine and breezes while large awnings and trellises provide shade and protection. Each home has a two-car garage via a lift that stacks the second vehicle above the first. This is part of a wave of new small lot infill developments popping up around the edges of Downtown. This one stands out for its panache and its clever use of every available square foot of developable area.

Mitra — 340 15th St.

  • Owner/developer/architect/designer: Nakhshab Development and Design

While most developers would shy away from the narrow 2,500-square-foot lot where the Mitra Lofts are now located, the design-build firm Nakhshab Development & Design (NDD) embraced the constraints set by the Downtown San Diego site to create a medium-density, mixed-use building featuring open spaces with a modern aesthetic. Instead of overcrowding the building by maximizing the density at 36 units, NDD focused on creating 10 boutique units that would give each tenant a more private, luxurious lifestyle. This approach allowed for a multitude of unit configurations, encouraging multi-generational living. Tenants range from young professionals living in the studios, to a small family in the two-bedroom unit, to a retired couple living in the private penthouse level.

Its main street front unit is home to NDD’s headquarters, which is a hub for clients, business partners and employees. It encourages interaction with residents and local business owners and creates a more vibrant local community. Mitra’s location also adds to its sustainable features. While being easily accessible from the freeway, it is also near a trolley/bus station within a walkable area, which encourages tenants to use their vehicles less while navigating Downtown.

Pali Wine Tasting Room — 2130 India St.

  • Owner/developer: Tim Perr and Scott Knight
  • Architect/designer: Design Opera

Love the wine tasting room in Little Italy. With touches of modernism and industrialism, the activated and animated space is a great addition to an already vibrant community. The rooftop deck is also a great space to celebrate San Diego’s climate.

Prime — 1965 Columbia St

  • Owner/developer: Prime at 1965, LLC / InDev, LLC
  • Architect/designer: InDev / Zac Stover

This development consists of nine unique units with a mechanical parking system, parking five cars where normal you could only park two. There are two townhome-inspired units located directly on the corner overlooking the streets of Little Italy, with incredible views looking out into the bay from its roof top terrace and large floor to ceiling windows let you feel like you are floating above the streets below. There are street level units that offer versatile layouts that could be used as commercial spaces or a personal apartment and offers enough flexibility to blend the two uses. The rest of the units are small to large studios that focused on open floor plans to insure the tenants can maximize the use of their square footage.

Nolen Rooftop — 453 Sixth Ave.

  • Owner/developer: CY Gaslamp/J Street Hospitality
  • Architect/designer: Awbrey Cook Rogers McGill

Named for John Nolen, a city-planning pioneer who mapped out much of San Diego’s early landscape, The Nolen is perched on the 14th floor rooftop of the newly constructed Courtyard San Diego Gaslamp/Convention Center built by Swinerton Builders. Local and visiting imbibers can take a quick elevator ride up to discover a spirited escape from Downtown that offers sweeping city views and a contemporary interpretation of the classic speakeasy.

Historical Preservation

Horton Plaza Improvement Project — 324 Horton Plaza

  • Owner/developer: Horton Plaza
  • Architect/designer: Walker Macy

A beautiful meeting place with new refurbished water fountain and stainless steel luminaries. The refurbishing of the historical water fountain and then tying in the luminaries brings the past into the future in a setting the brings itself to a meeting place.

Hotel Churchill — 827 C St.

  • Owner/developer: San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC), working with its nonprofit affiliate, Housing Development Partners (HDP)
  • Architect/designer: David S. Holmes, 1914 / Studio E Architects, 2016

New life for the Hotel Churchill in Downtown San Diego is providing new beginnings for 72 formerly homeless individuals, including 56 veterans, who now rent affordable, furnished studios at the local historic landmark.

Constructed prior to the Panama-California Exposition of 1915-17 and designated a local historic landmark in 2003, the Hotel Churchill and its adjoining parking lot were acquired in 2011 by the SDHC through a court settlement in a foreclosure proceeding. SDHC took immediate steps to safeguard the hotel, which had been vacant since 2005, and working with HDP, restored the original façade, including transom windows made of prismatic glass, single-pane windows in the units on residential floors 2-6; and six Juliet balconies replicated from historic photographs and installed in their original locations. Renovations also included a meticulous restoration of the 2,000-pound, 1940s-era Hotel Churchill neon rooftop sign; a recreation of the building’s entrance sign and awning based on historic photographs. The interior pays homage to the building’s history, and enhances the overall historic character of Hotel Churchill, while updating it with modern amenities.

Little Italy Bungalows — 1525 Union St.

  • Owner/developer/architect/designer: Jonathan Segal

Noted master builder A.H. Hilton originally built the “Spanish-eclectic” bungalows in 1926 in the heart of Little Italy as workforce housing. The bungalows were designed in a “detached narrow court” fashion. The individual cottages are arranged in a U-plan that includes a long, narrow garden-like walkway. The 5,000-square- foot property has six stand-alone units and one duplex unit for a total of eight rental units. Each of the eight bungalows have their own private outdoor garden space. The previous owner let the buildings fall into disrepair and homeless destroyed the units over the past three years. Jonathan Segal decided that the eight, 264 square-foot bungalows should be saved and restored to their former glory. San Diego is in dire need for affordable housing and a greater respect for its architectural history. This project does both.

NoonanLance TI —701 Island Ave., Suite 400

  • Owner/developer: JS Western Retail Investments
  • Architect/designer: Roxana Miu/Ware Malcomb

The repositioning of an existing historic 1925 warehouse into a commercial/mix-use office building was a step forward for San Diego’s Downtown urban revitalization.

In planning and visioning the space, the core needs of a traditional law practice were addressed, while affording its users a creative office experience. The building’s historic character and its unique fabric were creatively intertwined with the needs of a contemporary workspace. Embracing the rawness and patina of time the design concept emerged to be a celebration of the space’s historic past and its present-day use. The wooden posts spanning between the tongue and groove flooring and roof, the hollow-brick walls, iron glass pane windows and all other iron detailing were left intact while new construction and materials were used to complement the space’s industrial loft feel without competing with its inherent colorfulness.

Interior Design

Airborne — 1401 Imperial Ave.

  • Owner/developer: Airborne America
  • Architect/designer: Carrier Johnson + Culture

This skydiving training facility houses two wind tunnels that lift users, giving the effect of skydiving. Structure is concrete with an excavation of 45 feet. In additional to the two skydiving tunnel chambers, the project will also offer a café and kitchen, a retail shop, classroom and training rooms, along with two party rooms for birthdays or other special occasions. The interior has an open atmosphere with an atrium, which will go all the way up to the roof deck. Visitors entering the front door and will not only see the skydiving tunnel chambers, but also the levels above. The interior will consist of exposed concrete, floor to ceiling glass curtain walls, vibrant paints and colored glass, and high-end millwork finishes. The exterior of the building will consist of some exposed concrete but will predominately consist of a glass curtain wall system, along with a curved sheet metal panel at the main entry.

AquaVie Health and Fitness — 234 Broadway

  • Owner/developer: The Westgate Hotel
  • Architect/designer: Hollander Design Group

The once barren rooftop and administration building of the Westgate Hotel has been transformed into an urban oasis in the heart of Downtown. Hollander Design Group took on the challenge of revitalizing the 1960s building, which for the past two decades had been primarily vacant except for the active retail component fronting San Diego’s main business district right on Broadway. This proved to be one of the most difficult aspects of the project as the construction of the half-million pound pool and resulting structural work, asbestos abatement, mechanical system overhaul and building construction needed to be accomplished while the retail tenants remained open for business.

The hotel was looking to provide their guests with a luxury wellness amenity that could also be used to host the many events booked at the hotel throughout the year. The result created an environment that transforms seamlessly from fitness and lounging facility during the day to an event space at night overlooking San Diego’s spectacular cityscape.

Craft and Commerce — 675 W. Beech St.

  • Owner/developer: CH Projects
  • Architect/designer: Paul Basile, Basile Studio

CH Projects again turned to Craft & Commerce’s original 2009 designer, Paul Basile of Basile Studio, for the 2016 renovation of the San Diego locale that helped change the landscape of Little Italy’s burgeoning hospitality climate. Basile transformed the formerly intimate space into an expansive 3,300-square-foot open layout that maintains the same intimate East Coast vibe of the original design.

Sitting on the bustling corner of Kettner Boulevard and Beech Street, Craft & Commerce is even more visible with an expanded wrap-around patio lined with built-in fire pit tables, custom ceiling-height “hangar” windows, and a new convex brick exterior that proudly displays the venue’s guiding principle, “Demand Less.”

The interior, with its “literary cabin” concept, is lined with hundreds of hardbound classic novels, and the walls are inscribed with handwritten passages from David Foster Wallace’s works. Having collaborated with the San Diego Natural History Museum, century-old taxidermy is mounted and displayed in new custom steel and glass encasements that include the dramatic hand-painted grassland scene of a lion preying over a warthog displayed above antler taps at the main re-designed bar.

The handcrafted communal table, one of the few items from the original space, can still be raised to bar height or folded down to become a drink rail. Custom white, black and yellow mosaic tiles form an intricate diamond pattern on the floor, and the steel water jet-cut bar face showcases backlit credit card numbers as a nod to the “commerce” in Craft & Commerce.

False Idol — 675 W. Beech St.

  • Owner/developer: CH Projects
  • Architect/designer: Bosko Hrnjak and Ignacio Gonzalez

This new and intimate tiki oasis is ensconced within Orchid & Onion’s 2011 Grand Orchid Design recipient, Craft & Commerce, and offers guests the ultimate escapist’s destination. Hidden in plain sight, a step through an unassuming secret entrance within Craft & Commerce transports patrons to False Idol’s faux tropical paradise complete with traditional Polynesian elements of fire are ice (including an indoor waterfall and flaming volcano).

CH enlisted a team of legendary tiki artists to fashion a fully immersive environment that pays tribute to the imagined “false idols” of mid-century American worship. Elaborately detailed tiki carvings adorn the main bar and walls of the interior space while traditional design elements are artistically designed into a cohesive whole, simultaneously giving the space its timeless patina. From Papua New Guinea and Maori-style masks to a ceiling covered in glass buoy balls and petrified puffer fish, every square inch of the intimate 1,000-square-foot space is decorated in Polynesian pop-inspired tiki artifacts.

Gensler Studios — 225 Broadway, Suite 100

  • Owner/developer/architect/designer: Gensler

In response to our idealistic environment and informal culture we like to think of our new home as a studio rather than an office; a place where ideas and the breeze flow freely, and space that supports your process.

It’s the informal living room that sparks collaboration and the outdoor deck to getaway and re-energize. The open flexible and simple studios allow for focus and innovation. The bar is communal and cultivates our sharing culture. It’s a visually diverse environment that creates the unexpected, it reflects our passions and showcases our craft.

J Street Hospitality — 321 Seventh Ave.

  • Owner/developer: J Street Hospitality
  • Architect/designer: Delawie

The design for J Street Hospitality’s new office lies behind a large, enhanced wall that provides a hidden entry door, a nod to the speakeasy. Once through the office doorway, the space opens into a grand entry area with 30-foot ceilings, exposed mechanical equipment, glass fronted offices and a shared communal space — masculine, upscale, yet industrial.

The new mezzanine, suspended above both the open office area and the deli, looks out onto Seventh Avenue and Petco Park through the building’s large existing historic windows. By strategically placing the mezzanine level offices and common areas to take advantage of the large windows, natural light was brought into the overall space, further engaging office staff with the energy of the outside. The walnut meeting table doubles as a ping pong that is highly used by all.

Mind Touch — 101 W. Broadway, Suite 1500

  • Owner/developer: Aaron Fulkerson
  • Architect/designer: Bailey Bishop Design

Showcasing both the importance of the Vertical Campus and the playful but driven culture, MindTouch was determined to experience in their new global headquarters, the design interrogates the millennial team members and empathizes with the Buddhist corporate vision of Satori, to imagine the workplace environment as a reflection of a work culture that is focused on celebrating our tribal nature, through the pursuit of ultimate enlightenment. Now, MindTouch serves as both as a hub of tech innovation for the local community, hosting regular programmer competitions, start-up weekends, of course, the day-to-day social experience that is MindTouch headquarters.

 Queensborough — 777 Fifth Ave.

  • Owner/developer: Brethren Collective
  • Architect/designer: Bluemotif Architecture

Queensborough, a 1920s New York City-inspired cocktail lounge in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter, features a 1,800-square-foot street-level cocktail lounge and a 6,000-square-foot subterranean space that has become San Diego’s favorite social club. The “Uptown” cocktail lounge exudes sophisticated elegance, drawing inspiration from New York City’s old-school glamour — featuring plush, diamond-tufted leather booths, cantilevered marble tabletops, antique brass light fixtures, wrought iron railings and exposed brick walls.

Marked with vintage elements throughout, Bluemotif sourced original New York subway tokens for the bar’s intricate flooring inlay; a wooden phone booth-turned-photo booth was shipped in from Queens; and an authentic subway turnstile ushers guests from Queensborough “Uptown” through to the “Downtown” lounge. The cocktail lounge’s jaw-dropping centerpiece is a 22-foot-long marble bar top and custom-fabricated back bar, displaying more than 300 bottles from floor-to-ceiling.

In contrast to the glitz of “Uptown,” Queensborough’s “Downtown” subterranean space features industrial design reminiscent of New York City’s bustling subways. Ellis has placed conversation-starting elements throughout, including authentic metro booth seats, overhead leather subway grip handles, a custom-built DJ booth, and private whiskey lockers. Classic 1920s-style light fixtures and lighting shrouded behind industrial metal grates complete the moody ambiance. 

The REY Apartments — 801 A St.

  • Owner/developer: Wood Partners
  • Architect/designer: CCBG Architects

The REY is a multifamily residential apartment development located in the Cortez Hill neighborhood of Downtown. This building consists of 478 units in 21 residential stories. A multi-level parking structure is located partially above and partially below grade on the sloped site. The project was developed so that a second two-story building can be built on the eastern side. Outdoor common areas include both street-level and rooftop amenities. The rooftop amenities feature a pool, cabanas, grills and grass. The southwestern plaza includes an iconic water feature that reaches eight feet high adjacent to the above-grade portion of the project’s parking garage. The base of the entire project features a living wall designed to soften the building’s edges and create a unique green foundation for the building.

Rivo Holdings — 530 B St., Suite 2300

  • Owner/developer: Rivo Holdings
  • Architect/designer: BNIM

An employee-focused workspaces is not simply a differentiator, it’s a core requirement in the best work environments. With more than 80 percent of their employees being millennials, Rivo Holdings, a financial services provider, was ready for a fresh approach for their workplace. The Union Bank building has 360-degree views of San Diego, including Downtown, the Pacific Ocean, Balboa Park, the San Diego Bay and the mountains to the east. These views and the abundance of natural daylight provided an ideal opportunity for BNIM to design a workplace with strong connections to nature.

Landscape Architecture

Horton Plaza Park — 900 Fourth Ave.

  • Owner/developer: Westfield and city of San Diego
  • Architect/designer: Walker Macy, Carrier Johnson, Schmidt Design Group, Inc.

Horton Plaza Park includes the restoration of the existing historic park and Irving Gil fountain, as well as the creation of a new one-acre plaza created by the removal of the Robinson May department store building. The new urban plaza creates a central meeting and public gathering space for San Diego. Sculptural Luminaires enclose the amphitheater space and paving patterns mimic Native American Kumeyaay basket weave patterns. The plant materials selected for the plaza and park were popularized by noted horticulturalist, Kate Sessions.

530 B Sky Terrace — 530 B St.

  • Owner/developer: Kearny Real Estate Co./Bosa Development
  • Architect/designer: Gensler / Lastras de Gertler Landscape Architects

Located in the heart of Downtown on the third story of the Union Bank building, the Sky Terrace provides an exciting urban oasis. This once lifeless outdoor terrace has been transformed into a roof garden, with a vibrant mural by Maxx Moses serving as its backdrop.

The various deck and lawn sitting hubs are filled with dining tables, fire pits and lawn games. The outdoor living rooms weave through planting pockets and shade trees providing an urban respite within the jungle of skyscrapers.


Cypress — 1435 Imperial Ave.

  • Owner/developer: Affirmed Housing
  • Architect/designer: Lynn Susholtz, Stone Paper Scissors

Public art Facade/Screen Wall created for transitional housing project in the East Village District of Downtown. The 12-foot-by-60-foot aluminum and steel art screen wall includes garage doors, entry gate and masking for two SDGE doors. The 63-unit affordable apartment project provides SRO/efficiency units, targeting special needs populations.

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