San Marcos ‘North City’ gaining critical mass


San Marcos’ North City development near Cal State San Marcos is picking up speed, with plans for a new university extension building, and a suite of road improvements underway over the summer.

North City is an ambitious plan for a dense, urban village around the university campus, which would offer a mix of retail, dining, business office space, educational facilities and housing.

The plan, envisioned as a sort of Gaslamp District for North County, spans about 150 acres, with construction completed on 15 of those, said Gary Levitt, whose firm Sea Breeze Properties is developing the district.

“It will start accelerating as we’ve proven the concept,” Levitt said. “I hope to build out in seven to 10 years.”

In February, the company broke ground on a six-story structure that will house the university’s extension program, plus some of its student services, Levitt said. The building, to be located across from the campus on the north side of Barham Drive, will span 140,000 square feet of space, including 15,000 square feet of retail, he said. It’s slated to open in August 2019, and will connect to the main campus through a long pedestrian bridge across Barham.

Meanwhile, roadwork is underway to accommodate the new buildings, Levitt said.

“We’re expanding Barham Drive and Twin Oaks Valley Road, widening it slightly and adding deceleration lanes, and acceleration lanes, and creating new intersections into North City,” he said. “We are putting in traffic lights into North City.”

Starting this summer, and continuing through summer 2019, construction on roads and other infrastructure in the area will be underway, the city stated on its website.

On Barham Drive, the company will reconfigure the center median from Campus Way and Twin Oaks Valley Road, replacing 11 Italian Stone Pine trees with Torrey Pine trees to complement the new landscaping. Their plan will also add sidewalk, landscaping, and a new traffic signal to Twin Oaks Valley Road. Improvements to storm drains and water sewer mains on Twin Oaks Valley Road are underway, and crews will add a new intersection along North City Drive.

While those upgrades ultimately promise better circulation for the area, residents should expect some traffic delays over the next year, the city noted.

“Although two-way traffic will be maintained, traffic delays are anticipated as motorists slow through work zones,” the city stated.

The North City area has been growing since 2012, when the company opened the QUAD, a student housing facility with apartments featuring private bedrooms, flat-screen TVs and sleek, modern furnishings. The complex, now completed, offers 850 beds, and is fully occupied for the 2018-19 school year, Levitt said.

Next came Block C, market-rate apartment housing for young professionals, introduced in 2016. Its mixed-use model offers apartments in upper levels, along with ground floor retail and dining. Among its first tenants are dining and drinking establishments that contribute to the developer’s vision of an eclectic street scene for the area.

This summer Prep Kitchen opened downstairs at Block C, bringing its signature farm-to-table menu and indoor-outdoor dining to North City. The company has existing locations La Jolla, Del Mar and Little Italy, and plans to open a venue in Los Angeles. In addition, the complex now includes FRESH Healthy Cafe, offering juices, sandwiches and acai bowls, Grit Coffee Shop, and Newtopia Cyder, a tasting room for draft cider.

Among the district’s other drinking and dining destinations is Urge Common House, a sprawling “eatertainment” complex located on Redel Road off of Barham, that opened in 2017, and offers a brewery, bocce ball and bowling. The PIMA medical building, which provides vocational training in health care fields, also opened last year on Carmel Road, next to Highway 78.

Together, those new and upcoming facilities are the start of a pedestrian-friendly live-work community in San Marcos, that seeks to provide housing, dining, education and jobs within the existing city footprint, Levitt said.

“The message is that we are building a true urban development next to the freeway,” he said. “The future of the type of development that we think we’ll see more of in Southern California.” Twitter@deborahsbrennan