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Cedar and Kettner Development Project Parking Structure: Uniting Utility and Aesthetics in Little Italy

When it comes to aesthetically-pleasing architecture, parking structures aren’t exactly top of mind. And when your need for parking is as dire as San Diego’s burgeoning Little Italy neighborhood’s was—with brownfield conditions to boot—aesthetics might fall even further down your priority list.

But County Supervisor Ron Roberts, an architect by profession, believes that the public deserves good architecture. So when the County brought Harris on as the construction manager for this $37 million design-build Cedar and Kettner Development Parking Structure project, we were committed to the County’s vision of satisfying current and future parking demands in a way that was also easy on the eyes.

Accommodating a Growing Neighborhood

Little Italy is on the cusp of becoming a major visitor destination, with a weekly farmers market, top-rated restaurants and flourishing development. But with any redevelopment come architectural casualties. A newly designed waterfront park removed two asphalt parking lots that visitors and workers relied on.

To satisfy the growing need, the Cedar and Kettner project was designed to be a ten-story parking garage, with three underground levels, and seven above. The project needed to accommodate community members' cars and the emerging neighborhood’s design and feel.

The County’s concern for the visual appeal and integration of the parking structure within Little Italy and the community’s acceptance of it was a unique client need, and one we took very seriously. This thing had to look good.

Working with the Community

We worked with the County to solicit the input of community groups such as the Little Italy Association and Civic San Diego. Together, we established expectations and the community’s design standards—including enhanced occupant use, energy efficiency, LED lighting, exterior ACM paneling and architectural fins along the west and north elevations.

While the project team collaboratively established the project’s design standards, their efforts in value engineering continued during construction as well. As a result, the project team was able to include additional options to improve the building design in the project budget.

Getting Creative

So how do you ensure a parking garage also contributes to the community’s aesthetics? Add art!

The County commissioned an art installation on the exterior wall of the parking structure. Local artist and art professor David Adey worked with his students to create a sculpture made of tire tread impressions of vehicles from all around San Diego County.

This evolving neighborhood was generating buzz, business and a need for parking, but it didn’t want to sacrifice its character in the name of development. The result—a parking structure that complements and seamlessly coheres with the vibrancy of the community—is one that County Supervisor Diane Jacobs deemed both the most needed and best looking parking garage in the entire region.

In the process, we all learned that you don’t have to sacrifice aesthetics for utility.


Joe Webber, CCM, DBIA, LEED AP

Joe's 20-plus years of experience, more than six at Harris, include project schedule and budget management, quality control, close-out and assuring contract compliance with local public works and statutory regulations. Joe has an uncanny knack for navigating complex projects. His construction management acumen shines through in the development and improvement of commercial and mixed-use buildings, schools, gymnasiums, central plants and scientific laboratories—which he often helps complete ahead of schedule and under budget. In addition to his technical expertise, Joe never loses sight of the people who benefit from his projects.

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