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Vacant Building, Formerly Pernicano's Restaurant, Sold To Developer

The Hillcrest restaurant, vacant since 1985 in center of Hillcrest, is slated to become a large mixed-use development

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Hillcrest, one of San Diego’s most historic and vibrant communities, will soon receive a makeover. 

A piece of prime real estate located in the heart of Hillcrest -- once home to Pernicano’s, a popular restaurant in the 1950s that has been vacant and boarded-up since 1985 -- has sold to a developer.

Photos of Pernicano family, provided by Jeannine Savory

In its heyday, Pernicano's was a meeting place for movie stars and sports celebrities. But since it's closure the site has become a hotspot for graffiti, trash, and illegal drug activity.

Photo outside of Pernicano's

The Pernicano family, according to an article by the San Diego Union-Tribune, sold the property located on the corner of Sixth Avenue and University, to San Francisco-based developer Carmel Partners for just under $8.5 million. 

Carmel Partners specializes in multi-family and large mixed-use developments.

The developer has one large scale development in San Diego near San Diego State University called Boulevard 63, which was the center of a lawsuit in 2012.

That's when the City of San Diego and a group of residents sued Carmel Partners, alleging the company was building off-campus, dorm-style apartments. Carmel Partners settled the legal dispute with the city for $150,000 and agreed to include a community park in their design.

As for the company’s latest San Diego acquisition, the purchase is the final chapter in Pernicano’s storied history.

The Pernicano family has attempted to develop as well as sell the parcel previously. Over the past five years, the property has been in escrow four times.

Real Estate Agent Jeannine Savory who represented the Pernicano’s says the family is glad the property will be revamped and glad they waited until new building regulations went into place, allowing for higher density developments.

“The Hillcrest core, where this property is located, was proposed to be down-zoned and because of that we had to stop our marketing efforts and basically go into a density-preservation campaign,” Savory said.

And while many residents bemoaned the graffiti and the trash that the vacant lot attracted, Savory says the family did the right thing by waiting.

“The timing was ideal for the future of Hillcrest,” said Savory. “We were able to find a buyer that was comfortable with the zoning and move forward.”

That zoning, according to city regulations, will allow Carmel Partners to build up to 61 units at the location, possibly paving the way for a commercial and residential mixed-use project with no height limits. 

Savory said the family has mixed emotions that the property, once a hotspot for celebrities and socialites, is no longer theirs. 

“The family grew up here,” Savory said. “They are sad to sell it but they are relieved it is over.”

Community planners in Hillcrest, however, say it is far from over. While they say ridding the community of the dilapidated building is a positive thing, they are unsure what to expect from the new owner.

 “I think it could be a big building, a very big building,” says Tom Mullaney, a longtime community planner and member of Uptown United, a residents' group that focuses on quality of life issues. 

Mullaney worries that Carmel Partners will attempt to go above and beyond what he says are very liberal zoning regulations.

“We welcome new development. We know new development is coming we just want the public amenities that make it a decent place to live -- a decent place for the people living here now and for the new people who may move in,” Mullaney said.

Carmel Partners did not respond to our request for comment.

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