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East Village property changing to apartments soon

Park Boulevard, C Street will house new multifamily complex

Demolition is expected to begin in September for a 117-unit apartment development with ground floor retail in the East Village.

Located at Park Boulevard and C Street, the project known as 13th & C by San Diego-based Willmark Communities will require the demolition of four buildings. These include the former Gen Lai Sen Chinese Restaurant; a few automotive-related businesses; a small vacant building that had been used by The Salvation Army; and a Mexican restaurant known as La Casita Mexican Diner that used to be a house.

The bright yellow Chinese restaurant, which was open seven days a week, had been an East Village fixture for the past 28 years and the bright blue La Casita restaurant was also a long-time haunt of area residents.

While Willmark says it won't have to deal with hazardous issues such as underground storage tanks or asbestos, the project has to be set back by at least 25 feet due to a fault line that runs beneath the property along Park Boulevard.

Originally known as Downtown Park, the name has been changed to 13th and C to reflect the development's location.

The project is a design of La Jolla-based Kyle Stephens & Associates.

Willmark's construction arm, WM Builders, is the general contractor on the project.

As explained by Shaun Schmidt, Willmark project manager, the 117-unit project will take about two years to complete. Neither the projected cost of the project nor the lender was disclosed.

Although seven years have passed since Willmark acquired the property, Schmidt said the plans have changed little.

"For the most part this is pretty much the same project," Schmidt related.

Schmidt said the plans call for one- and two-bedroom floor plans (with dens in some units) ranging from 762 to 1,140 square feet.

Along with the units, the six-story, four-building development calls for an exercise room, Internet café, café lounge, two rooftop decks and perhaps a small movie theater.

The project will also have ground floor retail, possibly a restaurant.

Schmidt said 13th & C should take about 24 months to complete.

"We're making sure we can do this in a timely fashion so we can meet our construction schedule," Schmidt said.

The 13th & C development is Willmark's first project in downtown San Diego. Schmidt said he hopes it won't be the last.

"We'll do more if we can create the opportunity for long-term growth," Schmidt said.

"We are excited to be part of downtown," said Randy Williams, Willmark general manager. He added that Civic San Diego, which evolved from the Centre City Development Corp., has been helpful in shepherding the project.

Willmark has developed the first 73 units of the 796-unit La Jolla del Rey development on Governor Drive in the University City. A CoStar Group report said the phase had five vacant units for a vacancy rate of about 6.4 percent.

Some of Willmark's other properties include the 227-unit Rancho Hillside Apartments in El Cajon, the 542-unit Town Park Villas in University City and the 560-unit Prominence Luxury Apartment Homes in San Marcos.

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