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Apartments Planned at Former Convent in La Mesa

Project is Latest in Recent Wave for City in Eastern San Diego County
August 1, 2018
Pathfinder Partners and Silvergate Development plan to redevelop Little Flower Haven, a former Catholic convent and senior retirement community, into a 130-unit apartment complex in La Mesa, CA.
Rendering Credit: Pathfinder Partners, Silvergate Development.

San Diego-based based Pathfinder Partners LLC and Silvergate Development LLC plan to turn a recently-acquired former convent and senior retirement facility in La Mesa, CA into a new 130-unit apartment complex. It’s the latest in a series of projects that have transformed the downtown area of this city in eastern San Diego County during the past three years.

A Pathfinder Partners spokesperson said the companies acquired Little Flower Haven, situated on 4.1 acres at 8585 La Mesa Blvd., for $6 million. CoStar and public data indicate the former Catholic convent and nonprofit home for the elderly, which opened in 1938 and closed in 2015, was purchased from the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus, an international order which describes its mission as focused on contemplation, prayer and works of care for children and the elderly.

Filings with the city of La Mesa, which has approved plans previously submitted by Silvergate, indicate that the project entails partially demolishing and redeveloping the existing complex with 130 apartments, contained within seven two- and three-story buildings.

Developers have not divulged expected buildout costs for the project, which they said includes preserving the most historic portions of the existing 1930s-era, Mission-style structure, including its bell tower and chapel. New elements will include a recreation room, kitchen, fitness facility, swimming pool and bike lockers. The property’s studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments will average 777 square feet.

Mitch Siegler, senior managing director of Pathfinder Partners, said developers plan a walkable community to be located about two blocks from the city’s historic La Mesa Village neighborhood. That area has seen a wave of redevelopment and business arrivals during the past three years, including new restaurants, boutiques and art galleries.

Located 20 miles east of downtown San Diego and with a population just under 60,000, the city of La Mesa invested more than $7 million into a revitalization of its century-old village area, which had been commercially ailing and underutilized for several years. Improvements were made to streets, sidewalks, lighting, storefronts, open spaces and other elements.

Several now popular eateries, cafes, an arcade and other social spots have since arrived to fill vacancies in and near the city's downtown area. Most recently, San Diego’s Cohn Restaurant Group announced plans for Draft Republic Brewing Co., a new 25,000-square-foot restaurant, brewery and event space slated for a fall 2019 opening on a two-acre parcel at 9160 Fletcher Pkwy.

Siegler said the multifamily project in La Mesa, which is his company’s seventh recent development in the San Diego market, is expected to provide much-needed housing in what has become “a highly desirable, supply-constrained market” for apartments.

A recent report by brokerage firm Marcus & Millichap noted that the East County submarket, which includes La Mesa and neighboring Spring Valley, has among the lowest local apartment vacancy rates, at 2.4 percent – below the San Diego overall average of 3.3 percent. Rents in La Mesa grew about 3 percent over the past year to just over $1,600, still below the regional average of $1,861.

Data from CoStar Market Analytics indicates that even with strong annual rent growth over the past several years, along with steady investment sales activity, apartment developers have not done a lot of new projects in the East County area, which also includes the cities of El Cajon and Santee, CA. The last significant addition to that area’s inventory was 200 units delivered in La Mesa at the start of 2016.

Lou Hirsh, San Diego Market Reporter  CoStar Group   
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