After a 15 Year Delay, New Restaurant Planned Adjacent to Il Fornaio

Coronado is pretty much built out.  There aren’t too many vacant lots, except in the last place you would expect to find one - right on the bayfront of Ferry Landing.  For the past 15 years there’s been an abandoned piece of land between Il Foranio and the Coronado Bay Club, distinguished only by dirt, weeds, and a lonely “for lease sign.” 

But that may soon change. An experienced restaurateur has signed a letter of intent to build a sushi and steak eatery called An the Bay – a play on the Korean word for "on".

“We’re just at the beginning of the process,” said George Palermo, general manager for the Ferry Landing Association, which leases the land from the Port of San Diego and sublease it to retailers.

The process could be lengthy one. The Port Commission has to approve the plans and the neighbors will have a say as well.  When Il Fornaio was first proposed there was considerable opposition from people who lived at Oakwood, but the neighborhood has changed.  Oakwood is now the Coronado Bay Club.  The Ferry Landing is bustling. 

The original plan called for two restaurants. That didn’t happen because the second restaurant, Fleming’s Steakhouse, backed out at the last minute. 

“That tainted the site. People thought there must be something wrong with the property,” said Palermo
“Word spreads, time goes by, there’s an economic downturn and the next thing you know 15 years have gone by.”

The land set idle primarily of a contractual agreement Ferry Landing Associates, had with the Port of San Diego. It stipulated that only a restaurant could be built there.

The Ferry Landing Association has a forty-year lease (1997 to 2037) that only allows them to build restaurants on the land, said Tanya Castaneda, spokesperson for the Port of San Diego. Leases can be amended, but it requires approval from the Port Commission, she added.

“We did consider it,” said Palermo. But there weren’t a lot of options. “Retail would have never worked there. There wasn’t enough foot traffic.”

At one point Lamb’s Players considered building a theater there. An oral surgery practice from La Jolla looked at the property, but it was too expensive. “It didn’t pencil out for them,” Palermo said.

The only business that could be viable was a restaurant, but after the economic downturn in 2007-2009 that became untenable.

A number of restaurants in the Gaslamp went out of business and it was easier and cheaper to move into one of those spaces.  Remodeling a restaurant cost about $300,000, building one from the ground up can cost between $4 and $5 million, Palermo said.

In the 15 years the lot has remained empty, the south end of the island has experienced a transformation from tawdry to tony, with up scale condos and high-end trendy restaurants.

The laundromat on the corner of First and Orange is gone and the entire block has gentrified block of dive bars into a restaurant row: Nicky Rottens, Saiko Sushi, Sapori and Coronado Brewing Company.  Tartine’s is less than a block away. The Ferry Landing itself has two dining venues – Peohe’s and Candelas on the Bay.

Soon the district, if all goes well, will be graced with a new eatery and residence and visitor’s another dining experience.  Palermo has his fingers crossed. For now, everything is tentative. “They may change the name before the restaurant is built,” he pointed out.  Still after 15 years having a letter of intent is welcome news indeed.

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Tags: business, entertainment

Comment by Kellee Hearther on May 31, 2014 at 1:19pm

Nice job, Gloria.

Comment by Jim Rohn on June 2, 2014 at 2:57pm

ummm, two Sushi restaurants within 2 blocks of each other? ... hmmm - not a wise business decision in MY way of thinking

An unfortunate side effect may be the end of the weekly Farmer's Market ... something *I* do not want to see happen

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