By KENDRA SITTON | Uptown News
The Urban Land Institute hosted its third annual bus tour of El Cajon Boulevard to show off recent efforts to activate underused urban space on the important corridor and to show where developments will soon be added. In two rented MTS buses, nearly 100 architects, developers, engineers, and community activists visited sites along the boulevard, including Little Saigon, Hoover High School, Fair@44, an empty lot by the Interstate 15 bridge, and the BLVD Court.
Affordable housing will soon come to lots that have been vacant since 1983 when the I-15 freeway divided the community in half. Meanwhile, Fair@44 and BLVD Court have transformed empty pavements into places of gathering and commerce. BLVD Court is a new addition to the activated sites and was added after the success seen at Fair@44. Fair@44 has a new taco truck, bright paint on the asphalt, shade and seating. BLVD Court brought together vendors so people could stop by to purchase beer and support local artists. Little Saigon has used street art to preserve the unique character of the immigrant enclave. Hoover High School’s construction is nearing completion, with a hopeful April finish.
Some of the original City Heights community members, whose activism was sparked after more than 2,000 homes were torn out to make way for I-15 decades ago, were in attendance. They helped form the ideas for kiosks along the bridge above I-15 and that the bridge needed to be strong enough for housing to be built on its ends. Forty years later, those ideas are finally coming to fruition with development along the bridge deck.
An important addition this year was the bus-only lane, which has made the road more pedestrian- and bike-friendly, and brings in hundreds of more riders compared to last year. The plans to add density, improve safety and activate new public spaces are part of Blvd 20/20 – a vision of El Cajon Boulevard for the next decade.
Properties along the boulevard have seen a spurt of recent investment. Since the first economic development tour in November 2014, property sales have topped $467 million along the El Cajon Boulevard corridor, with more than $163 million in 2019 alone, according to the Boulevard BIA.
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.