When Carrier Johnson + CULTURE’s Vincent Mudd came to San Diego to attend San Diego State University, he made up his mind not only to stay, but to get involved in the welfare of his new city.
A friend of mine once told me that if you take care of your community, your community will take care of you,” he says. Mudd certainly has done his fair share of caring, having served as the San Diego chair of Big Brothers Big Sisters, the American Red Cross, the Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Citizen's Fiscal Sustainability Task Force, and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.
Currently, he chairs the San Diego Exploratory Foundation, which he founded in 2007 to promote San Diego’s social and economic welfare, lifestyle, and culture, both within and beyond the San Diego “Megaregion” that extends east of San Diego and south into Mexico’s Baja California. The Foundation’s long-term goal is preparing the city and Megaregion to win the Summer Olympics and to host the inaugural 2019 World Beach Games. It was through this effort that Mudd was introduced to Carrier Johnson + CULTURE, where he now serves as the managing principal of global architecture and design and branding leader.
“The Olympic Games are the largest peace movement in history, but it’s also a chance for countries to share not only their culture and their level of competition, but to show everybody else how similar we are and how unique we are, all at the same time,” says Mudd. “I was looking for the best architecture firm to communicate our message through architecture, and that’s how we found Carrier Johnson. So, it’s just kind of a twist of fate that I came to San Diego, and came to Carrier Johnson later as an officer in our firm, and have continued with these amazing architects.”
In order to spur activity in underutilized areas and maximize the value and impact of its projects, Carrier Johnson + CULTURE designs its residential structures to accommodate a wide span of uses. A recent example is 7th and Market, a 45-story mixed-use residential property recently approved 9-0 by the city of San Diego. The 450-foot tower is under way in the city’s East Village with Cisterra Development and will be the tallest building in San Diego when complete.
The firm considers its mixed-use projects “vertical cities,” as opposed to the older concept of a “city of villages” where each use—retail, residential, employment, education, and so on—is located in a separate place over a wide area. The vertical city at 7th and Market takes all of these uses and extends them upward on a single, 60,000-square-foot “superblock.”
The project’s multiple elevations and terraced rooftops preserve up to 55,000 square feet of the lot’s open space, including 6,000 square feet of public space. Its ground-floor retail and restaurant component will be anchored by a 40,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market, and its residences will comprise 115 market-rate apartments, 32 affordable SROs, and a 160-room Ritz-Carlton hotel with 58 condominium units. The lot will also contain 156,000 square feet of office space, which two companies have already pre-leased, and 900 parking spaces above and below grade.
A similar vertical city is under way at Park and Market, also in the East Village, a few blocks away from 7th and Market. Park and Market will have many of the same residential, retail, and office uses, plus access to the city’s trolley line, which will provide its users and residents with public transportation and tourist traffic alike. It will also include an expanded public amenity component, given the development site’s history as an open community space.
“We’ve taken that open space and integrated it into the apartment building and the office building, and had this highly amenitized space. It’s going to feature movies in the park and be completely open and available to the public as well as to the people who use that property. So the park stays alive, the public use stays alive,” Mudd says.
Also under development in the city is the Ballpark project, a mixed-use residential property developed by John Morse Inc. and Greystar next to the San Diego Padres’ Echo Stadium. The stadium has been a major catalyst in the revitalization of the once-industrial East Village, and Mudd considers the Ballpark development concept “one of the most important projects downtown.
“This is a very challenging site to be able to develop,” he says, “and so the building is designed to maximize the use of square footage so that, because of where it's located, it’s an opportunity to maximize its use.”
But maximizing use doesn’t mean replacing what was already there, especially if it displaces the existing residents. “What you don’t want to do is gentrify neighborhoods,” he says. “One of the things we do see, as I mentioned with 7th and Market, is projects that are actually absorbing product types like SROs into the new development. The residents aren’t being moved someplace else. Their building is going to be renovated, and then they’re gonna stay on that block. So that’s the one thing we’re seeing, a retention of the existing residential use.”
In the spirit of strengthening the city’s image, its economy, and its cultural footprint, Carrier Johnson + CULTURE is actively working with 14 of the top 20 residential developers in the country on projects across the city. Much of the firm's current focus is on the East Village, which over the past two decades has undergone a developmental renaissance.
“The [East Village] neighborhoods are becoming activated, and I think it’s a more sustainable activation,” says Mudd. “When the economy falls apart, and all of a sudden the apartments aren’t renting and the condos aren’t selling, and you could have a chance of that block going dark, with these multiple uses and some of these uses being very entrepreneurial, you still have a chance these blocks don’t die when the economy goes through its natural ups and downs.”