The effects of a strong economy can be seen and felt in Escondido, where the availability of financing has led to no less than three dozen housing, commercial and city projects that over the course of the next few years will change the appearance and vitality of the city.
Some projects are being built now. Others have been approved and will begin building shortly. Others, including the controversial Safari Highland Ranch project, are awaiting approval and permits.
“Here at city hall we’re very excited about all the projects going on,” said City Manager Jeff Epp. “We try to do everything we can to unleash the potential for exciting things in our community.”
Escondido attorney Ken Lounsbery, who served as city manager 40 years ago, said the flurry of activity is an indicator that lenders are confident in the current economy and the future of the city.
All the housing being built and proposed in Escondido is needed, he said. “If we’re talking market absorption, if the question is, are we building more than the market can handle, I don’t think that’s the case,” he said.
Some of the larger projects in the city:
Construction will begin soon on a condominium complex at the western edge of downtown where the old, blighted police headquarters building was recently torn down. The Escondido Gateway project will consist of 126 condominium of various sizes that will be connected to the transportation center across the street.
A 106-unit, six-story condominium building is being planned just south of the California Center for the Performing Arts in what is now City Parking Lot No. 1. A deal to sell the property to Touchstone Communities is still being negotiated.
In the northwest part of the city, the 109 acres of land where the long-shuttered Escondido Country Club and golf course sits was recently approved for 380 houses. Whether they will be built will depend on the outcome of a lawsuit that has been filed by some who live near the abandoned golf course as well as a multitude of other factors.
In the southwest part of town near Felicita County Park, a 65-home upscale development known as Oak Creek was approved more than two years ago but is waiting to begin construction until new sewer lines are laid in the area.
Meanwhile, negotiations between Palomar Health and developers to turn the old Palomar Medical Center on the eastern edge of downtown into a mixed-use housing/commercial area are said to be in advanced stages. Such a project could include several hundred condominium units and is viewed as crucial to the revitalization of the area.
And on the eastern edge of the city in the San Pasqual Valley, a 550-luxury home development called Safari Highlands Ranch will be going to the City Council for approval later this year. The city will annex the land into the municipality if approved. It is the largest housing project to be considered by the city council in decades. Neighbors who live to the west of the property, as well as a few who live to the north, are fighting the plans submitted by Concordia Homes.
The city is also eyeing some big projects.
In the center of Escondido, at the southeast corner of the intersection of Washington and Ash streets, the city is expected to begin building by this summer a desalination recycled water plant. The facility is needed to bring water to farmers that can be used to irrigate crops in the eastern and northern parts of the city at a greatly reduced cost.
Farther east at Lake Wohlford, the city hopes to begin construction within a year of a new dam that will replace the one that now holds back the lake. A replacement dam is needed because tests show the top part of the existing one might not withstand a large earthquake and therefore the lake’s water level has been reduced significantly for safety reasons. Funding has yet to be fully acquired for the project.
Commercial building is going strong as well.
A large commercial center that will include restaurants and a big car wash is being built on the land where the Wagon Wheel Restaurant and Palm Tree Lodge were located along Centre City Parkway south of Mission Avenue.
On the western side of town, a 212,000-square-foot warehouse/distribution center is being built along Harmony Grove Road with an expected August completion date.
At the southwest corner of Broadway where state Route 78’s four-lane highway begins, a grocery store and drive-thru Starbucks is under construction.
Not far from downtown, just east of Interstate 15 on La Terraza Boulevard, a long-needed business-class Marriott hotel is being built. And over by Palomar Medical Center, a 57,000-square-foot, 52-bed Rehabilitation Institute structure is coming soon.
Numerous other projects are underway all over the city including housing in the Reidy Creek area and a 95-unit condominium project to be called The Ivy on Second Avenue near Ivy Street where a vacant surgery center building is being razed.