Working with a sound concrete and steel structure built in 1951, FoundationForForm Architecture & Development created the North Park Post Office Lofts with a vision of homage to the local landmark, while complementing widespread revitalization of the area.
Closed by the postal service in 2010, the adaptive re-use of the structure incorporates local-serving retail, restaurant and creative office spaces along with 33 market rate and affordable housing units. The new residential building ‘hugs’ the original structure, creating an urban pocket park in the site’s core; inviting residents as well as the passersby.
Distinct design approaches intended to maintain the public, shared space sensibilities of the building’s past include two welcoming and connecting courtyards; one accessed from North Park Way between commercial spaces features 2-story glass walls that open the retail and restaurant uses to their patrons. The second courtyard, accessed from Grim Avenue, is lush with drought tolerant landscaping, a meandering pedestrian path and features “front porches” designed for neighborhood interaction and the enjoyment of San Diego’s near-perfect climate.
Each unit has large private balconies with bright interior finishes. No two units are identical, with careful consideration given to views, sunlight, natural ventilation, privacy and lifestyle of the user.
Most units boast 20-foot tall ceilings with upper loft areas, custom staircases and large kitchen islands perfect for entertaining.
Patterning of the exterior steel railings, the water-jet cutouts of balcony enclosures and the custom-raked stucco take design cues from parcel scanner barcodes used by mail sorting devices.
Two huge diaphanous, corrugated and perforated solar screens add dimension and reduce solar heat gain of the afternoon sun, while additional passive energy-saving design features include exterior open circulation for pedestrians and automobiles, draught tolerant landscaping, energy star appliances, recycled flooring and countertops, LED lighting and floor to ceiling operable windows that allow deep penetration of natural light and fresh ocean breezes.
While dynamic in its design, the new building’s deliberately subtle color scheme of whites, grays and pink allows the original structure to stand out. For almost 60 years, the North Park Post Office represented a universal mail system and community hub – within its walls the bonds of communication, friendship, family, and community were strengthened, and national and world business entrusted. The legacy lives on with the North Park Post Office Lofts.