The upgrades to the former home of the Stump’s market have begun in the Rancho Santa Fe village’s Plaza De Santa Fe. Construction began two weeks ago to convert the 10,000-square-foot former market space next to the post office on Via De Santa Fe into individual office suites.
Operated by the company Small Offices 4 Rent, which has 13 office building projects throughout San Diego County, the new space will be called Rancho Santa Fe Village Suites and is expected to be complete by February 2019.
According to project consultant Pete Smith, part of the plans are to eliminate the “unsightly” loading dock on the side of the building, filling in the ramp and getting rid of the roll-up doors to create a patio and possibly a sandwich shop for tenants and the village.
Smith said that they have been working with the Covenant Design Review Committee (CDRC) for about a year on potential exterior improvements to the building, including a proposal to add windows to the frontage. They plan to submit their third-revision of its plan to the CDRC in December.
The building next to the post office has been vacant since the market closed in 2015 and multiple possibilities have been explored.
“It’s been an interesting few years. We’ve talked to a lot of different groups about potential uses of the building,” Smith said, listing considered uses such as a teen or youth center, a farmer’s market configuration and a combination of office and retail. Financing always became an issue, Smith said.
In 2016, Plaza de Santa Fe pitched a plan that included the new construction of a two-story building, gathering spaces and an expanded underground parking garage, but it was scrapped after meeting resistance from neighbors.
Smith said they hired a broker to specifically focus in on finding a market user to replace the departed Stump’s and despite taking to nine markets about using the space, all declined. They opted not to consider the real estate brokerage community to fill the space and even spent some time in discussions with a hospital for a potential medical facility.
“After about nine months it became clear that from a practical standpoint, parking would’ve been a nightmare,” Smith said, noting the medical facility would have needed about 35 spaces just for the staff, not to mention those coming for appointments.
Tom Farrar, the Association’s former building commissioner, gave them the idea for their new direction.
“He told us that the Association had over 130 code enforcement actions against members and the vast majority of violations were those who were operating businesses out of their homes,” Smith said. “We found that small offices is a need here…I think it’s going to be a good fit.”
Rancho Santa Fe Village Suites will have room for 30 units. The space will also include a conference room and two meeting rooms and a full-time receptionist on staff. Smith promises reliable and state-of-the-art internet connectivity with AT&T business direct wi-fi.
“One of our focuses is always parking, it’s crucial in the village,” Smith said. “We will need to have enough parking for visitors to the post office. One good thing with the executive suite concept is that for those facilities only one-third of the tenants are there at any given time.”
They won’t do assigned spaces in the upper lot and the intent will be for most tenants to park in the existing 23-space underground garage.Smith acknowledged that during construction, parking at Plaza de Santa Fe is currently challenging as the underground parking garage had to close during a portion of the construction work so employees with designated spaces below have had to park in the surface lot.
Since the market closed Smith also noted that some have taken advantage of the available spaces to park all day in the upper lot and once the suites open there will have to be some stronger parking enforcement to ensure that community members can still access the post office.
While there will be no market in the old market space, the developers of the Gateway project across the street (still in the county review process) have committed to bringing a 5,000-square-foot market. The project to replace the existing gas station will include a two-story commercial building, courtyards and open space with an underground parking garage.
Per its 2017 agreement with the RSF Association, if they cannot secure a market, the developer has agreed to limited retail users permitted in that space — there will be no bank, no financial institution or real estate office.