By Hoa Quach
A local real estate expert said the closure of a long-time North Park discount store is a sign of the neighborhood’s growing affluence.
Discount International Fashion Company, located at 3002 University Ave., announced it will close its doors in December after more than 25 years in North Park.
“The area has changed,” said owner Rafee Zakir, who also previously owned two restaurants in the area. “Our customers have moved because they can no longer afford to live here and the new customers are not spending here.”
Zakir said when he first purchased the business in the heart of North Park, he paid $1,200 for rent. He now pays $3,500 for the 2,344-square-foot space, which includes a 400-square-foot storage area and a 550-square-foot mezzanine.
Dana Kuhn, a real estate development lecturer at San Diego State, said the store’s closure is a sign of the gentrification process the neighborhood is undergoing.
“It’s a story that’s repeated across the country,” Kuhn said. “Inner cities are fallen into secondary preference, but as new communities are built, then people start to realize that they can be closer to things so they move back to those inner cities. This, of course, causes higher values and the demographics change. It happens all over the place.”
Kuhn said those who have lived in North Park for a longer period may move to less costly areas such as City Heights, thus affecting the businesses serving residents.
“A dollar store can no longer survive in North Park,” Kuhn said. “The businesses need to cater to the young, more affluent people coming to the area.”
Despite the increasing costs to live and sell in North Park, Kuhn expects commercial rent to plateau in two years as residential rent has now reached its limits.
“Apartment rents in North Park are unbelievably high,” Kuhn said. “I can’t see anyone paying more than $2,000 for an apartment, so we’re close to the end on the market rents. The revival starts with residential then goes to commercial.”
Until that time comes, Zakir suspects that his current space can be rented out for as much as $10,000.
“It’s the best location in North Park,” Zakir said.
Strom Commercial Real Estate’s Nate Benedetto, who is overseeing the 30th and University space, declined to state the exact cost for rent but that it is “negotiable.” He did say the company is reaching out to “strong” tenants.
“We are open to doing a restaurant deal here but would also love to see offers from strong retailers,” Benedetto said. “We are reaching out to many of the top groups within San Diego and beyond and hope to find the right fit soon.”
The type of business that moves in is a concern for surrounding business owners.
Lee and Becki Kaplan, who opened Kaleidoscope in May, said they are always “concerned” about who their neighbors will be.
On the other hand, Ken Gabbara, owner of Para News, said he appreciates the changes happening to North Park.
“The area is developing nicely and it’s definitely helping my business,” Gabbara said. “It is becoming like a second Downtown but the daytime business is picking up.”
North Park Main Street’s executive director Angela Landsberg said the overall changes are positive for the neighborhood.
“These are all good signs for North Park,” Landsberg said. “We’re seeing a drastic increase and improvement of the economy here.”
Landsberg, who grew up in the area, said North Park is becoming what it once was in the 1970s: a destination for San Diego’s visitors.
“I shopped here with my grandma when I was a little girl,” Landsberg said. “The malls were still pretty new and people were still used to shopping in urban areas. It’s nice to see it turning back into that.”
As far as what’s next for Zakir — the longtime business man said he may open another restaurant, and it may be in North Park.
—Contact Hoa Quach by visiting her website, hoawrites.com.