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Redesign transforms Hillcrest shopping center into The HUB

The 25-year-old Uptown District Shopping Center on University Avenue in Hillcrest is getting a major facelift with a modern look. Image courtesy of MCG Architects

Murals, tree sculptures and outdoor seating areas are being constructed to transform and update the 25-year-old Hillcrest Uptown District Shopping Center on University Avenue.

The center has been renamed The HUB Hillcrest Market, which better defines it as a neighborhood meeting spot, said Gregg Sadowsky, a senior vice president at Regency Centers. The center is at 1030 University Ave.

The goal of the project was to make it a comfortable space where people want to stay and get that “backyard feel” – what Sadowsky said the late architect Graham Downes wanted to do.

Downes created the preliminary design for the project before he died in April 2013. His idea was to paint over the tans and neutrals with whites and greys. He chose areas to feature sculptures and custom murals. Downes understood the area and what people wanted, Sadowsky said.

“We turned to Graham to help us restore and enhance this civic treasure,” Sadowsky said.

No buildings will be torn down as part of the $3 million project -- the center’s renovation is all through design: color, landscaping and paint, Sadowsky said.

A unit of Regency Centers Corp. bought the 148,638-square-foot shopping center in December 2012 for $81.1 million as part of a four-asset, $188.5 million transaction.

After Downes died, Regency Centers hired Page Winkler, senior vice president at MCG Architecture, to facilitate Downes’ plan. Don Hollis, founder of Hollis Brand Culture, worked with Downes during the conceptual stage and has helped to interpret and achieve his original design, Winkler said.

“[Regency] brought us in to make sure Graham’s design and intent was carried through,” Winkler said. “We’re using the buildings as a backdrop with simple colors and adding unique interests to the building to create character.”

Orange, green and blue metal will replace the canvas awnings, Winkler said. Patios and outdoor seating will be created, and accent lighting will be added to the plaza. The project will also include natural wood trellis structures and a gabion rock wall -- a wire frame case that rocks sit in. There will be sculptural art installations by Chris Puzio and MakeFab.

The first mural, painted by Skye Walker in July, features two women whose hair seems to turn into blue waves with a sunset. The 35- by-15-foot mural is located at the corner of Vermont and University on the California Coast Credit Union building.

Sixteen wood and metal structures shaped like forest trees will sprout around the property. The structures, designed by Jose Parral, are made of 16-foot high natural wood and beams with branches made of metal, Winkler said. Supporting community benches will be placed under the tree structures.

“The forest trees are something I’ve never seen before,” Winkler said.

The facades of the buildings facing University Avenue will be decorated with two large-scale, aluminum-cut metal screens. A local fabricator is designing the pattern, Winkler said.

The project will also feature drought-resistant and indigenous landscaping, Sadowsky said, as well as new signage.

The center, which was developed in 1989, hadn’t been updated in about 10 to 15 years, Sadowsky said. Construction began May 19 and the first phase is anticipated to be completed in the fourth quarter, with four murals expected by the end of the year. Two or three more murals are expected next year in addition to work on underground parking.

The changes will enhance and freshen up the center and attract the tenant mix that fits with the community, Winkler said. The center, which is anchored by a Ralph's grocery store and includes Trader Joe’s, will have Napizza and Ritual Juicebox as new tenants.

The complete project team includes Bycor Construction, Hollis Brand Culture, Ron Neal Lighting Design, Jones Sign and landscape designer Jose Parral.

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