By Jeff Clemetson
On Sept. 26, a long-time goal of the city to develop the property at 9000 Murray Drive came to fruition at a groundbreaking ceremony for Briercrest of La Mesa — a senior living center that will be built there.
“Over the last two years we’ve been working with the city to establish a public-private partnership to get this project underway and we’re extremely excited about getting shovels in the ground and starting to make some progress here,” said Andy Plant, president of Westmont Living.
The groundbreaking ceremony was the culmination of a years-long process by the city to develop the vacant, 3-acre site adjacent to Briercrest Park and the Grossmont Health Care District headquarters. La Mesa is partnering with Westmont by leasing the property for 55 years, charging $415,000 per year for four years and increasing that amount by 3 percent a year for the remainder of the lease.
“The total amount of fixed rent paid to the city over the 55-year term of the ground lease is estimated at $50 million, or a net present value of nearly $10 million,” said Chris Gonzales, community development program coordinator for the city. “The city will allocate 20 percent of the annual rent payment toward the cost of maintaining Briercrest Park, the public park adjacent to the project. At the end of the 55-year ground lease term, the land and improvements will revert to the city.”
Westmont will make the payments for the rights to build Briercrest of La Mesa — a 130,000- square-foot, three-story retirement community that will house 150 residents and provide both independent living and assisted living, including memory care.
“We’re particularly excited about the 50,000 square feet of common area space that will include a common meeting room that could be used by community groups for lectures or theater; along with the pool that will be used for aqua aerobics for the community as well,” Plant said.
Mayor Mark Arapostathis said the partnership with Westmont began three years ago when the city began seeking qualified developers for the property with the criteria they would develop the land and provide synergy with the nearby Sharp Grossmont Hospital and Briercrest Park; build a quality development; and realize financial value for the city.
“With Westmont, we achieved all three of those,” he said. “When it’s completed, this will be one of the foremost senior centers in this part of the county.”
The city and the developers tout the location for Briercrest of La Mesa as ideal for senior living because of its proximity to medical services at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, park space, shopping and dining at Grossmont Center, and a trolley station.
“We’re fortunate for the location,” Arapostathis said. “I’m a teacher and I talk to a lot of parents who are dealing with their parents becoming older and looking for senior housing throughout the county and one of the thigs they say that resonates with me is that they like when they find something that is freeway accessible. A lot of facilities are within the city limits but they are miles and miles away from a freeway. With this, we don’t have that problem.”
Plant said Briercrest of La Mesa will require 18 months of construction and the complex will open in early 2019. Sometime in the middle of 2018, Westmont will start hiring staff for the community.
Although the senior living center won’t open for almost two years, at least one person is already eager to reserve one of the units.
“I’d like to put my name in now, officially, so in 30 years if I’m still here — because I saw the development and the drawing and couldn’t be happier with what’s happening here,” Arapostathis said. “It’s going to be another fine development that is going to add to the jewel of the hills.”
— Reach Jeff Clemetson at email@example.com.