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FoundationForForm hopes to complete construction of the mixed-use project in North Park in spring 2014.

Post Postal Architecture

Mixed-use project to incorporate old post office

By Andrew Keatts|Voice of San Diego

Photography and editorial assistance by Anna Lee Fleming

It’s not often a huge construction project goes up quietly in a densely populated commercial area.

But that’s basically what happened with “You Got Mail,” a mixed-use project in the heart of North Park incorporating and surrounding the abandoned post office at Grim Avenue and North Park Way.

The property was purchased by FoundationForForm after the post office was shut down in July 2011. This architectural and developmental company, whose vision is to turn the abandoned building into residential and retail space, is keeping the project environmentally friendly and significant by incorporating the mid century post office building into the design plan.

“Were not historical preservationists” says Craig Abenilla, designer and developer of the project,”…but it’s becoming our M.O to be smart and maintain space that is sturdy and has good bones.”

FoundationForForm also recently completed the “You Are Here” project in Golden Hill, which was similarly built on top of an old, unkempt gas station on 25th Street. The success of “You Are Here” sparked plans for “You Got Mail,” whose name is only temporary from the ownership entity behind the project.

The North Park development is still in construction, but it’s already visibly arresting, with a large slanted design element springing from the post office to the top of the new structure’s wood frame.

The mixed-use project will include 33 market-rate rental apartments and commercial restaurant/retail space.

The mixed-use project will include 33 market-rate rental apartments and commercial restaurant/retail space.

It’ll include 33 market-rate rental apartment units, and the old post office will be converted into 5,000 square feet of commercial restaurant/retail space.

Abenilla’s goal for the postal project is to keep the design eco-friendly, efficient, and as resourceful as possible. “We believe in designing smart from the get go. We don’t want tenants to rely on central heating or air conditioning systems, even though the units are fully equipped. These spaces are built for easy cross ventilation, access to natural light, and with the idea that mechanical systems are not needed in a place like San Diego.”

The developers were able to get approval for their project relatively easy, because they took all existing land use regulations into account and aren’t asking for any exceptions.

They didn’t need to appear before the North Park Planning Committee or anyone else to get a discretionary approval, because the project was designed to the existing land development code. The space will also provide adequate parking for what is required by the city.

“An underground parking structure is unsafe to build, instead we are constructing a semi-submerged parking structure, half sunken and half above ground, that will be very exposed,” says Abenilla. “Access will come off the alley and the Grim side of the street.” Abenilla hopes the project will be done in the spring of 2014.

Being eco-friendly and green is important to the mission and integrity of FoundationForForm, however, keeping the old Post Office building is not just Abenilla’s conscious or resourceful decision, he feels “it also keeps the story of the neighborhood. The post office has been here since the 1950s, and our new structure keeps it as a prominent staple in the community.”

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