Kensington Commons, urban living fitting into a community

Posted: April 24th, 2015 | Communities, Feature, Kensington, Top Story | 3 Comments

By Lucia Viti

Upscale living just got gentrified in the heart of historic Kensington.

Kensington Commons, located on the corner of Adams Avenue and Marlborough Drive, celebrates pedestrian- and pet-friendly urban living. The three-story building features 34 one, two, and one plus a den apartments; 65 parking spaces tucked below grade behind the building; and ground floor retail space that includes Stehly Farms Organic Market, Pacific Dental Services, and a UPS Store.

Framed by wide sidewalks and palm trees as tall as the edifice, this Santa Barbara-style structure maintains Kensington’s village identity while supporting San Diego’s “City of Villages” design strategy, a concept that stunts outward sprawl.


The Kensington Commons project turned a desolate but high-profile corner of Adams Avenue into an oasis of urban living. (Photo by Allard Jansen Architects)

Apartments sidle two furnished and flowered outdoor courtyards complete with fountains. Spacious rental only, nine-foot ceiling layouts include state-of-the-art kitchens, stainless steel appliances, gas ranges, quartz counter tops, hardwood-style flooring, plush bedroom carpeting, storage closets, and private balconies. Northeast views boast a Tuscany-style church steeple peeking through a blanket of trees. North views include vistas of Mt. Cowles and Mt. Helix as southern exposures lay way to street scenes.

According to Allard Jansen, one of the three principal architects and developers, cues for the eclectic structure were taken from the Kensington community. “The neighborhood calling card is full of Santa Barbara, Spanish colonial features,” Jansen said. “The stucco exteriors, tile roofs, exposed eaves, mission details, and courtyards add character and sparkle to the already charming Kensington.”

The interior at an apartment in Kensington Commons (Courtesy of Allard Jansen Architects)

The interior at an apartment in Kensington Commons (Courtesy of Allard Jansen Architects)

Kensington Commons was designed in collaboration with San Diego architects and developers, Allard Jansen, founding principal of Allard Jansen Architects; Richard Vann, executive vice president at Sunroad Enterprises; and Salomon Gorshtein, president of Alta Development. The former two-lot property hosted a gas station and a small apartment complex. Although the lots were purchased separately, Jansen and his colleagues decided that it made more sense to work as one, full-block boutique.

“We knew that we would have a better impact on the community landscape if we worked together,” Gorshtein said. “The final product, taken from the prototype already in Kensington, adds value and fits perfectly. The apartments are spacious and filled with sun. It’s important to have light in your life.”

Jansen noted that all retail tenants were situated solely on the ground floor to maintain a walkable street frontage. “Kensington Commons is not a strip center with curb cuts for driving cars,” he explained. “Street front stores and sidewalks border the entire building for a safe pedestrian experience. Retail space was carefully chosen to add to the community. Stehly Market will be a micro-market of everything organic and healthy with a juice bar and casual seating. The UPS store is welcomed since Kensington is without a Post Office and PAC Dental rounds out the three.”

“Although some locals were skeptical about the amount of traffic Kensington Commons would attract, our businesses were chosen to invite people walking, not cars,” Gorshtein said. “Now everyone is pleased.”

Kensington Commons replaced an old gas station on the corner of Adams Avenue and Marlborough Drive. (Courtesy of Allard Jansen Architects)

Kensington Commons replaced an old gas station on the corner of Adams Avenue and Marlborough Drive.
(Courtesy of Allard Jansen Architects)

The seven-year odyssey was not without early controversy. Residents feared and fought the original as too high, too big. Both parties reached a satisfying agreement, and Jansen now calls it water under the bridge.

While Kensington Commons does not sport a pool or a gym, amenities are within walking distance. Conveniences include a bus stop steps away, a YMCA, a Public Library, a collection of restaurants and easy access to Interstates 8 and 15. Jansen described Kensington Commons as a prime example of an urban infill project that has residential, working and retail space all in one place. Residents don’t have to jump in their cars to run errands or enjoy dinner and a movie.

“I’m really proud of Kensington Commons, which stops outward sprawl by rebuilding neighborhoods,” Jansen concluded. “But the true amenity of Kensington Commons is the neighborhood and its residents.”

—Contact Lucia Viti at


  1. Justin G. says:

    As a Kensington resident, I can’t say I like this project, at all. Not that I was never opposed to the development, this is more about the architecture. I hate it. It’s boring and already looks and feels dated, as if it’s been around since 1987. Hopefully, a new buyer will come along shortly and do a complete exterior renovation of the entire block, sooner than later.

  2. […] a recent Uptown News article about Kensington Commons made no mention of the market’s issues, or the absence of evening […]

  3. Paul says:

    Yeah, what is it with this ugly architecture in California that’s supposed to be Spanish or Italian design. It’s really bad suburban style at best. And the kitchen! Why? How can people like this? It’s not even designed. Just picked out of Home Depot.

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