The Fort is a mixed-use residential and commercial project that includes 29 units of very-low income and affordable housing in the Mission Hills neighborhood of San Diego. In the 1920s, this site was home to a beautiful Ford automobile dealership. Over the nearly 100 year life of the building and property, the Gilmore Ford Dealership slowly fell into disrepair, becoming an eyesore in the neighborhood.
Through the assistance of Bruce Coons of Save Our Heritage Organization, David Marshall of Heritage Architecture, and Jonathan Segal FAIA, the dealership building was resurrected to exacting original standards, complete with original graphics. It is located on the corner, serving as the centerpiece of the new project and providing a pedestrian-scale at street level.
The new surrounding mixed-use structure steps from two stories on Hawk Street to eight stories as it retreats from the property line. The resurrected Gilmore Ford Dealership building anchors the corner. This gesture blends the perceived scale of The Fort from being pedestrian-friendly at street level while also mitigating the neighboring out-of-context 1970’s, 13-story block housing project to the west.
A slender vertical mass of the building displays the ability for concrete to appear light and airy while also forming a quality permanent building. Instead of typical wood framing and stucco, this building uses form and function with the simplest material palette to present a cohesive design, rather than paint colored accents typical in new mixed-use institutional housing projects.
The eastern elevation is layered in vertical and horizontal concrete fins, and a stainless steel sculptural screen reminiscent of the old car grilles once sold on the property. These sculptural elements balance and allow natural light and airflow into every space, while also limiting southern sun light exposure and heat gain. The metal sculptural screen on the lower building was designed and created by local artist Christopher Puzio. The screen uses a repeating form which creates visual privacy but still allows both natural light and silhouetted movement on either side.
All spaces utilize high efficiency appliances, electrical devices and materials in order to reduce the environmental impact. All water and runoff which comes in contact with the site is completely filtered and utilized to irrigate the drought tolerant landscaping. Additionally, the roof top solar array is maximized and provides electricity for all core building requirements resulting in a net zero, energy use building.
The Fort is a welcome addition to the trendy, urban lifestyle of Mission Hills that embraces its neighborhood’s historic past. Trust restaurant group will soon be opening their third restaurant location with an outdoor patio area that will activate the corner and add to the street life.
“How will we know it’s us without our past?” – John Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath