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Santee experiencing second building boom

The LanternCrest senior retirement community is undergoing a $25 million expansion, which will include restaurants, a pool lounge and bar, dog run and upscale living. Image courtesy city of Santee

From a major expansion to a senior care facility, several hundred new apartment homes and a college that’s relocating to the area, the city of Santee is hopping with a variety of new construction and improvement projects.

“In some ways, it resembles a restart of the boom period we experienced during the 2000s, a time of phenomenal growth in the city for both commercial and residential projects,” said Santee city manager Keith Till.

“When the economy went down, all of that tanked. Now we’re seeing a rekindling of interest in the city. A lot of that is pent-up demand.”

In the southeastern quadrant of the city on Prospect Avenue, general contractor Grant Company began grading and site preparation this summer on a $25 million expansion of the LanternCrest senior retirement community.

Parc One is a new residential complex that will be along the San Diego River and within walking distance of public transportation. The development is a first for the city, which traditionally has consisted of single-family homes. Image courtesy city of Santee

The expansion will add more than 100 upscale units for independent living to the existing 80-plus “memory care” units that are home to people with Alzheimer’s, and will be completed in 2014. A potential third phase of this expansion could bring the units up to 400, if it goes through.

The senior care community is located at the base of the mountains on top of the Sky Ranch project, where developer Lennar plans upscale single-family homes with views.

The LanternCrest expansion will also include restaurants, a swimming pool, miniature golf course, pool lounge and bar, theater, dog run and a beauty salon and spa. The community is spread over 34 acres with 12 acres of open space, and is close to state Routes 125, 67 and 52.

Over by the San Diego River, Riverview is a Ryan Companies mixed-use development that comprises office condos, residential condos and build-to-suit offices close to Santee’s Trolley Square shopping center.

Till said that Santee did have a template in place for a mixed-use project, but Ryan was the one that came forward with the plan. It built a total of eight office condo buildings on speculation that were completed in 2007, right before the economy tanked. As a result, two of the buildings were sold but six remained unoccupied until last year, when the San Diego Christian College bought five buildings in a deal valued at roughly $6 million.

Ron Bement with Cushman & Wakefield brokered the deal and said the four-year accredited private college acquired 54,000 square feet of space with the buildings, and it has recently obtained permits to complete additional construction. The campus will open to students in January 2014.

The campus can accommodate 500 students and will be expanded eventually to take in 1,200 students. Until now, it has been located on an El Cajon site owned by a church.

Relocating the campus to Santee will offer students better access to public transit, since it is close to the Santee Transit Center with trolley access to San Diego State University, Qualcomm, Mission Valley, Old Town, Gaslamp and Petco Park, city officials said.

Riverview’s residential condos, Parc One, will be jointly developed by JMR Properties and Intergulf Construction and will include 170 one-, two-, and three-bedroom condos. WestAmerica Corp. will provide preconstruction and construction services for the 293,000-square-foot project.

Grading has begun on the $40 million project that is expected to be ready mid-2014. It will occupy 6.78 acres south of the San Diego River, close to shopping and public transit.

“Parc One is a first for Santee, in that they have three- and four-story buildings. It’s right along the San Diego River, which makes it a prime property for higher density residential development,” Till said. “It’s smart growth, because it’s an easy walk to the trolley.”

The city manager highlighted an interesting fact -- that Santee has not been very receptive to apartments until recently.

“Santee has always promoted home ownership as a goal and the city planning process fosters construction of homes for sale,” he said. “Santee is really more of a single-family home community.”

But he’s said that’s changing, since the city has changed its goal of promoting homeownership and now also encourages rental multifamily units.

-Nagappan is a San Diego-based freelance writer.

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