Will Sky Deck soar in North County?


Next spring, The Sky Deck will open its doors in The Del Mar Highlands Town Center. This anticipated project is a part of The Collection, a $120 million expansion adding 40+ retail spaces to the center.

Patrick Donahue, CEO and chairman of Donahue Schriber Realty Group, came up with the idea for Sky Deck five years ago on a trip to Barcelona, Spain. When visiting his son, he discovered and fell in love with La Boqueria, a large public market, as well as innovative restaurant concept El Nacional characterized by separate culinary and bar areas.

When Donahue returned to the U.S., he decided to bring a similar model to San Diego in turn developing the plans for Sky Deck — a collection of eight to 10 restaurants, ranging from 500 to 3,000 square feet.

Confirmed tenants in the new space include Beeside Mediterranean Kitchen, Chi Extraordinary, Le Parfait and Ambrogio15. Tom Slater, founder of Slater’s 50/50, will operate Noblesse Oblige, a large cocktail bar that will be stationed in the center of the venue.

Still being built from the ground up, Sky Deck is characterized by high-ceilings, indoor and outdoor patios, and a large skylight with tinted windows. The blue skylight panels, which are controlled by an iPad, have the ability to lighten and darken based on temperature and time of day, as well as display graphics or messages.

A winding staircase will lead to an elevated, outdoor deck featuring three breweries — Rough Draft, Northern Pine Brewing and Boochcraft. The open-air space will embrace the elements, relying on the San Diego’s penchant for good weather and heating lamps when needed.

There will also be a glassed-in “cold space” upstairs highlighting exposed kegs from the three breweries visible to diners below. In addition to serving as a resource for the breweries, the glassed-in design is intended to encourage visitors to venture upstairs for a drink after their meal.

Donahue said he envisions Sky Deck to be the “ultimate date night place” where people can meet after work for a reasonably priced dinner, drink or dessert. The project seeks to be approachable without sacrificing any design elements.

He noted that although time is the commodity during lunch breaks, the priority switches to a venue’s atmosphere and entertainment value when evening falls. Rather than calling Sky Deck a food hall or food court, he refers to the vision a “restaurant collective.”

“Food halls are too informal to make it special at night,” Donahue said, referring to them as glorified food courts. “They may work well at lunch, but not dinner.”

Donahue and his team are seeking additional applicants to fill the open spaces. He said they are focused on “getting the right people and right merchants in (the space)” to curate the envisioned atmosphere. They intend to wait and unveil the project only when it is complete — or nearly complete — rather than open in stages.

Below Sky Deck, Jimbo’s…Naturally will relocate from its current location in the south end of the existing Town Center and move into a downstairs space in The Collection. The move, slated for September, intends to attract grocery shoppers to the newly expanded area.

Additionally, a future “fitness row” nearby will feature a slew of workout studios. These studios will possibly be connected to ClassPass, an application that allows users to change up their routines by trying out different classes at various locations with a subscription fee rather than separate memberships.

The overarching idea is for The Collection to serve one-stop-shop, where people can eat, drink, exercise and shop after work in whatever order they’d like — all without having to leave Del Mar Highlands Town Center.

Currently The Collection is still under construction, with Sky Deck anticipating a March 2020 opening.

“We’ve thought this through, and knock on wood, I think (Sky Deck) will work,” Donahue said.

The Sky Deck, Del Mar Highlands Town Center, 12925 El Camino Real, Carmel Valley,