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A revitalization of Escondido's historic downtown is underway

Dust, drilling, and construction workers have filled Grand Avenue in Escondido since the beginning of this year.

The construction is fulfilling part of the Grand Avenue Vision Project, a plan to improve Escondido’s historic Grand Avenue to drive more businesses and visitors into the city.

“It’s been a couple of months. But it's okay. We’re excited about the end result,” said Louisa Magoon, the owner of the Grand Tea Room located on Grand Avenue.


She said tea and construction aren't the best mix, but she doesn't mind the temporary nuisance, because the improvements were something she helped request.

Magoon said that around 2015, business owners on Grand requested improvements from the city to the downtown area.

“We gave them ideas. Widening the sidewalks ... putting more plants in ... and just different ideas," she said. "So we were super excited when we found out they were actually listening and doing something about it.”

Jennifer Schoeneck, the deputy director of economic development with the City of Escondido, said changes to Grand Avenue will be implemented in phases.

“The Grand Avenue Vision Construction Project is really the first phase in revitalizing downtown Escondido," she said. "The benefits from this project are going to help draw people to downtown, and help businesses expand their operations.”


Phase I includes pavement resurfacing and re-striping, improved parking, sidewalk widening, and new lighting.

A construction worker resurfaces Grand Avenue in Escondido, Calif., as part of the Grand Avenue Vision Project. April 12, 2022.
Tania Thorne
A construction worker resurfaces Grand Avenue in Escondido, Calif., as part of the Grand Avenue Vision Project. April 12, 2022.

Schoeneck said outdoor dining helped many businesses survive the pandemic and the widened sidewalks will help make the patios permanent.

“During the pandemic we were able to issue temporary use permits for all of the restaurants that wanted to have an outdoor dining option," she said. "And that's something we definitely want to continue with the improvements that are happening on Grand Ave."

In order to accommodate the wider sidewalks, traffic on Grand Avenue will narrow down to one lane in each direction.

Other changes include diagonal parking spaces that will increase the number of parking spots, and string lighting that will go up before the first phase is complete.

Schoeneck said the changes will only be seen on the North side of Grand Avenue before construction comes to a pause for Escondido's annual Cruisin' Grand classic car meet.

“We're looking to wrap up construction before Cruisin' Grand starts. Cruisin' Grand is a really important event in our downtown area, and we want to make sure that the event organizers feel comfortable with the state of Grand Avenue when that event starts,” she said.

Cruisin' Grand starts on May 6 and ends on Sept. 30.

Construction for Phase II of the Grand Avenue Vision Project is planned to start again in early 2023. This phase will widen both sides of Grand from Maple to Juniper, but according to the city website, engineering designs have not begun.

Schoeneck said a completion date for the full Grand Avenue Vision Plan is yet to be determined because only about half of the $15 million dollar project has been funded.

Phases I and II have been funded through a $1.44 million SANDAG grant, $1.1 million in city funds, and $5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act.

But the improvements on Grand Avenue aren't the only noticeable changes.

Palomar Heights is another project playing a big part in Escondido’s revitalization. That's going up where the old Palomar Hospital used to stand.

Undated rendering of the marquee building for the Palomar Heights development in Escondido, Calif.
Integral Communities
An undated rendering of the marquee building for the Palomar Heights development in Escondido, Calif.

“If you stand at the Escondido sign at the end of Grand and you look down, historically, you would see the large nine story tower of the hospital ... and now that that has been demolished, we wanted to create another landmark,” said Ninia Hammond, a project manager with Integral Communities, the developers for the project.

Palomar Heights is a mixed-use development. The plans call for over 500 homes; some luxury, and some what the developer calls “attainably priced.”

“Our idea was to bring a product type to the market that was smaller in size and lower in bedroom count to try to create a product that was attainable and what we described, that is, is an entry level buyer,” Hammond said.

Ninety rental units will also be specifically for seniors 55 and over.

Hammond said one of the most exciting structures at Palomar Heights is the marquee commercial building.

"The four-story iconic building will include a retail farmers market, collaborative work space, a state of the art gym, a sky lounge restaurant and a roof top bar," she said. "Across the street on Grand, another cornerstone building will feature a breakfast café and a secret garden."

She said Integral Communities tried to be careful about the amount of retail in the project, explaining, "We wanted it to be additive and not cannibalize the existing retail."

Hammond says construction of the development will take between three to five years.

Back at the Grand Tea Room, Louisa Magoon is looking forward to what’s ahead.

"We're hoping that with all the improvements that are going on and with Palomar Heights building all those apartments, that it draws more businesses into downtown in addition to the customers,” she said.

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