Original Article: San Diego Business Journal
A $15.3 million Vista apartment building with a 60-foot tall mural on an exterior wall in the center of what the city hopes will become a downtown art district is opening with a goal of fostering the arts.
Completed in March, the building has 42 apartments, one of which will be tentatively set aside for an artist in residence, said Lev Gershman, managing partner of Tideline Partners, the developer.
“The idea is a couple of times a year, we host an artist, complimentary accommodations. In exchange, that artist leaves something behind for the community. It can be art, dance, performances,” Gershman said. “The idea is to continue adding and building the cachet of creativity in the community.”
First called Terrace Lofts, the project at 516 S. Santa Fe Ave. has been renamed Found Lofts to reflect the developer’s intent to foster discovery through the arts.
“We think the name captures the idea of dreamers, explorers, pioneers, free spirit artists of all times,” Gershman said. “Our intent was to further support the art district.”
Celebrating Freedom of Speech
The exterior mural is part of that. The central figure in the mural is an alpinist – a mountain climber who specializes in high, difficult ascents.
Designed and painted by Dutch artist Joram Roukes, the mural as originally planned ran into controversy because it contained a depiction of Sacagawea, the Native American who helped lead the Lewis and Clark Expedition, rather than reflecting the heritage of local tribes.
After meeting with leaders of the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians, Gershman and Roukes agreed to change the mural to include images relating to local tribes.
The new images include a coyote’s head and a frog, relating to a tribal parable about how a coyote in human form killed a frog despite a warning that by killing the frog the coyote would bring about its own death.
Mel Vernon, captain of the San Luis Rey Band, wrote in a letter to the Vista City Council, that tribal leaders “wholeheartedly support the projects efforts to reflect the true history of this region and our people.”
“We do expect that the mural will provide opportunity for dialogue and education,” Vernon wrote. “Ultimately, we are hopeful that our history is not disregarded by someone else’s history, and that one day, the history of our ancestors is acknowledged as everyone’s legacy.”
Gershman said he chose Roukes after seeing some of his work elsewhere.
“The thing I liked about his art is he tends to do these multi-faceted, abstract pieces and he kind of thrives on learning about the cultural and historical issues and he kind of blends them in his art,” Gershman said. “The hope with the mural was to try to celebrate the idea of freedom of speech and expression. I just felt some of that was being put at risk if not compromised by this whole cancel culture and being worried about being politically correct and not offend anybody.”
Highest in Vista
Gershman said he’s hoping that other developers follow his lead and incorporate public art in their projects.
Roukes was the first artist in residence, staying in Vista with his wife and small child while he worked on the mural before returning to Amsterdam.
“We started with Joram because we wanted to attract national attention,” Gershman said.
Found Lofts includes 18 studio apartments of 405 square feet to 593 square feet, 21 one-bedroom apartments of 636 square feet to 806 square feet, and three two-bedroom apartments of 1,181 square feet to 1,331 square feet.
The five-story project was designed by Stephen Dalton Architects based in Solana Beach, with Richard & Richard Construction Co. of San Marcos as the general contractor and Pasco Laret Suiter & Associates of Cardiff as project engineers.
Monthly rents will range from about $1,700 to about $3,200, Gershman said.
“Our goal was to deliver some new product that was under $2,000,” Gershman said.
The project also includes 57 parking spaces, 12 all-weather electric bike lockers, package lockers, a 100 square-foot maker’s garage with power tools, an air compressor and a bike stand where renters can repair the bikes or assemble furniture.
The building is fiber optic wired.
A 60-foot-tall rooftop deck includes a bar and barbecue areas.
“For now,” Gershman added, “we can claim that we have the highest rooftop deck in Vista.”