Stadium Talk Spooks Property Owners

Uncertainty clouds chances of landing new tenants

The San Diego Chargers' far-flung search for a new stadium has circled back to downtown's East Village -- putting some property owners on edge as to the future of their businesses and development plans.

The owner of the historic building long known as the Wonder Bread Bakery, at 14th Avenue and L Street, was taken by surprise when word leaked last week that San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders met with Chargers President Dean Spanos about the area's feasibility for the stadium project.

"I would hope that they make a quick decision," said Bob Sinclair, who has owned the Wonder Bread building since 1998.

It's among several properties Sinclair still owns in the East Village. He first invested in the neighborhood in 1970, later acquiring title to most of area.

The remodeled, seismically retrofitted Wonder Bread building is only 20 percent leased, and as long as talk continues about a stadium going up on that parcel and others -- including the city's Tailgate Park across the street and the Metro Transit bus yard next door -- Sinclair's chances of filling the building are clouded by uncertainty.

"Tenants have a lot of choices these days," Sinclair said in a sidewalk interview outside the building. "And so they really don't want to go into property that's going to get them condemned and disrupt their lives."

Sinclair noted that he went through similar issues after plans for Petco Park and related redevelopment projects near other holdings of his were first announced and took shape.

"The nature of a project this large takes a long time to play out, and it's going to cause me some grief," Sinclair said, adding that he's willing to discuss the prospect of selling the building.

"I'm just hoping that the mayor and the Spanos family can come to a speedy resolution as to whether they're really going to work to make this site happen -- or move on," Sinclair added. "I hope they don't. I think the Chargers should stay in San Diego, and I think this is a great site."

Darren Pudgil, press secretary for Sanders, said the city also wants a speedy evaluation of the area, as do the Chargers, according to the team's special counsel, Mark Fabiani.

Fabiani said the Spanos family prefers not to have the project come about through eminent domain and court cases over condemnation prices, also saying that the Chargers are looking for willing sellers and potential business partners.

In the meantime, some of Sinclair's new tenants aren't thrilled about the situation.

"Its just a little bit of a surprise that this popped up," said Theron Williams, a principal of OfficePlanit & Olab studio, an office interior design firm that's still moving into its Wonder Bread building quarters.

"Had we known [about the stadium site speculation], we wouldn't have made the investment in the last six months," Williams said.

While Williams is rooting for the the Chargers to find a local site for a new stadium, he hopes it doesn't include the Wonder Bread building.

"Be a shame to tear it down," he said.

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