By Vince Meehan
IDEA1 sparks a new chapter in Downtown history
Ten years ago, Pete Garcia and David Malmuth came up with a semi-radical idea. They wanted to create a smaller version of Silicon Valley right here in San Diego. However, the duo thought it would be a great idea to add artistic innovation to a tech base as a way to attract a wider range of creativity. And thus, the I.D.E.A. concept was born.
I.D.E.A. is an acronym, which stands for innovation, design, education and arts. Garcia and Malmuth came up with the idea after being inspired by avante-garde communities in places like Portland, Oregon; Denver, Colorado; and Austin, Texas. Their vision was to create a district in San Diego where arts and tech could combine to create an incubator for jobs and innovation. Shortly after coming up with this vision, they created I.D.E.A Partners, a development firm which purpose was to bring this I.D.E.A concept to reality. Garcia believes that in the 21st century, art must be combined with science in order for innovation to thrive. But getting that concept to take hold was not going to be easy.
“Historically, San Diego is a late adopter to innovation, not early,” explained Garcia. “So we chose to adopt a DYI attitude for our vision.” They both felt that San Diego was ready for innovation, but the design and location still needed to be solidified.
“After careful consideration, we decided on the East Village as the location of our concept.” Garcia continued. “It was basically ripe for redevelopment because it is adjacent to mass transit and major freeways, as well as City College and Balboa Park. We felt this accessibility would attract young graduates to our project.”
Now Garcia and Malmuth are beginning to see their vision of an innovative community where fresh new ideas come to fruition.
The first building block of this grand plan is now complete. It is a unique housing and retail building at the corner of Park Avenue and F Street called IDEA1. The building is designed to serve as a collaborative meeting area as well as living quarters for future entrepreneurs, recent grads, and a mix of creative Downtown workers. Tenants are encouraged to work as well as live in IDEA1. The building is designed around a central European-style piazza called “The Hub” where residents, as well as visitors, are encouraged to mingle and exchange ideas.
This street-level floor of IDEA1 features many loft-style offices where independent professionals such as architects can work during the day, and live at night without leaving the property. The ground level also features retail space including new tenants Young Hickory — an eatery featuring coffee, craft beer, and breakfast and lunch options — and LOLA 55 Mexican food. And as testimony to the tech incubator concept that has gone into IDEA1, the internet marketing company Seer Interactive occupies the southwest corner of the floor level.
Even the building itself serves as a piece of art for Downtown San Diego.
“We designed the building to look like three separate structures nested together,” Garcia said. “We wanted IDEA1 to set the bar high as the first project in our district.”
In fact, IDEA1 has recently been nominated for three Orchid awards by the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s annual Orchids & Onions critique. The nominations are for architecture, landscaping, and interior design.
The interior of the building has the look and feel of a boutique hotel and the lobbies are designed to imitate fine art galleries complete with original art. It features 295 units and amenities such as a floor-level gym and rooftop spa open to all residents.
The IDEA1 complex has only been open for six months, but is 40 percent leased at this time. And the I.D.E.A District itself is now starting to take shape highlighted by the construction for the new UC San Diego Downtown complex. If Garcia and Malmuth are successful, their vision will result in creating and keeping thousands of jobs and innovation right here in Downtown San Diego.
—Vince Meehan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.