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La Mesa keeps moving ahead

Vacant land in La Mesa may be hard to find, but infill growth is thriving and construction currently is underway on no fewer than four major projects, including the Grossmont Trolley Station mixed-use development; Phase II of the Civic Center complex that includes a new public library and a new retail storefront for the U.S. Post Office; Briercrest, a planned retirement community being built by the Health Care Group; and the Grossmont Healthcare District's multiple construction projects resulting from a successful $247 million bond measure in 2006.

Often called the "Gateway to East County," La Mesa is a compact city of nine square miles in the foothills of eastern San Diego County. It is home to a healthy retail industry anchored by one of San Diego's oldest shopping malls, Grossmont Center; a vibrant and picturesque downtown village; and a 27-acre industrial area. La Mesa also boasts a thriving and growing medical complex including the award-winning Sharp Grossmont Hospital that has served East County for over 50 years. Interstate 8, Highway 94 and Highway 125 are within easy reach of all parts of La Mesa, and residents and workers can take advantage of five transit stations along the Green and Orange Lines of The San Diego Trolley placed conveniently throughout the city.

Smart Growth principles, especially accessibility to public transportation, have been part of the economic development strategy in La Mesa since 1987, when one of the first of six transit-oriented developments was built. The latest is the Grossmont Trolley Station project, now under construction, which has won four planning awards including the most recent from the California Chapter of the American Planning Association.

The $100-million mixed-use development on 8.5 acres along Fletcher Parkway and the trolley line is a public-private partnership between the city of La Mesa, the Metropolitan Transit System, Fairfield Residential and the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). The project includes 527 one- and two-bedroom apartments rising three to four stories over two levels of structured parking, and 3,000 square feet of commercial space oriented toward the trolley platform. Eighty apartment units will be devoted to affordable housing, subsidized with a $2.7 million contribution from the Housing Fund of the La Mesa Community Redevelopment Agency. Project completion date is set for early 2010.

Ground was broken in May 2007 on another construction project in the heart of La Mesa -- Phase II of the Civic Center Master Plan. With an expected completion date of spring 2008, the building features a new public library and full-service postal retail space occupying nearly 18,000 square feet. In approximately a year, construction will begin on a new Police Facility on the Civic Center complex funded through Proposition D, a bond measure that La Mesa residents approved to construct new Police, Fire and Emergency Services facilities.

Meanwhile, construction soon will be underway in central La Mesa for The Village at Briercrest, a planned Continuing Care Retirement Community near Grossmont Center, Sharp Grossmont Hospital and adjacent to La Mesa's new Briercrest Park. Built and operated by Health Care Group, the senior housing project features condo ownership, assisted living facilities and a special care unit.

The Grossmont Healthcare District's current construction project includes a build-out of three floors of a five-story building housing emergency and critical care facilities for Sharp Grossmont Hospital. Construction also is underway for a five-story, 66,000-square-foot medical office building and a multilevel 754-space parking structure on the northern portion of the Grossmont medical campus.

La Mesa has been on the move for over 100 years, since the time when citrus groves dotted the landscape. Now, as the city prepares to celebrate its centennial of incorporation in 2012, its economy remains on the move as well.

Strassburger is economic development and communications manager for the city of La Mesa.

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