SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — After languishing for decades, crews were busy Monday reducing the old Hillcrest Pernicano's restaurant to a pile of rubble. The work makes way for an eight-story mixed-use residential tower.
In the mid 1980s, George Pernicano shut down the Casa di Baffi and Pernicano's restaurants in the heart of Hillcrest, letting them sit for decades despite their prime location.
The buildings became magnets for graffiti and trash, and stayed that way after Pernicano died in 2016.
But in 2019 a development firm called Carmel Partners bought the property from the Pernicano family for $8.4 million. It's now replacing the restaurants with an eight story mixed-use apartment complex including two levels of underground parking.
The entire area is swarming with construction crews. On Robinson Avenue east of Sixth, the old 76 station is fenced off for demolition. Behind it, two brand new housing complexes are also being built.
"It's huge for Hillcrest," said Benjamin Nicholls, executive director of the Hillcrest Business Association. "We've always been stuck between no parking and nowhere to live. Now we're solving that. You can live in Hillcrest again because we're getting all these new condos and apartments."
Nicholls said the neighborhood is undergoing a renaissance with the kind of housing projects that transformed Bankers Hill about ten years ago .
"In terms of the housing shortage in San Diego, it's a drop in the bucket, but for Hillcrest it's quite large," he said.
He says as the new towers and apartments come online, new businesses and customers should follow, leaving the old a distant memory.