On Monday night, the Palomar Health board was expected to announce its redevelopment plans for the old Palomar Hospital campus. That didn’t happen—but lots of people, including some officials at City Hall, are waiting expectantly to see who the winning bidder will be and what redevelopment plan it will propose.
These are exciting but also anxious times for the city since the Health District owns one of the most desirable and develop-worthy pieces of land in the city. For many decades, the iconic hospital was the most prominent building for many miles around. Even today, only the new Palomar Medical Center is taller and more imposing.
Yet the building, which was built in 1950, isn’t safe anymore, which is why the Health system is moving all of its operations out. Whatever project is chosen and whoever is chosen to do it will set the tone for the entire downtown area.
We know from past statements made by Mayor Sam Abed and other members of the city council that they are salivating at the prospect of the redevelopment of this strategic land. It is located at a central chokepoint that could either be a source of inspiration or . . . well let’s just be optimistic and leave it at that. The city doesn’t own the land, but it will definitely have a say in how it is developed because for the health system to do anything truly visionary it will need the city’s cooperation.
The downtown is already in the midst of a transition. Escondido will be losing two well-known and longstanding businesses soon, including Draper’s and Damon, which is part of a chain that announced this month it is closing all of its brick and mortar retail locations, although it will continue to do business online. Another store in the same general line is Yardage Town, which, we learned this week, will be selling all of its inventory and eventually closing its Escondido location. The chain will remain in business, with the nearest location in Vista. So it’s not curtains for Yardage Town, except in Escondido.
How many other brick and mortar retail stores will close their doors because more businesses are jumping into the internet is unknown. We do know that the John Paul the Great Catholic University is growing and may expand further as its student population burgeons. We might also expect that the downtown will see more restaurants, breweries and wine tasting operations open up to serve the tourists and urban dwellers the city hopes to attract with its encouragement of more downtown apartments and condos.
What does all of this mean for the future of Escondido’s downtown? Darned if we know! One thing that IS certain is that big changes are in store! And you know what? People who end editorials with bad puns should be shot.