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Return to J Street: Underground Elephant’s New Office Wins Deal of the Year

In lieu of a successful sublease negotiation with Wal-Mart and the widely anticipated activation of the historic TR Produce Building in East Village, the San Diego Business Journal (SDBJ) has selected Underground Elephant for Industrial Deal of the Year.

Completed in 1934, TR Produce is located at Eighth and J Street and is one of about a dozen surviving East Village structures built between 1870 and 1930. The industrial brick building, both inside and outside, is punctuated by impressive steel beams and steel-framed windows.

For years Underground Elephant’s CEO, Jason Kulpa, walked by the building, and for years it sat vacant. Never occupied, the building’s interior literally needed to be built from the ground up–there were even tomato plants growing in the dirt floors.

Jason Kulpa worked with Steve Martini of Quality First Commercial to close the deal on the 19,000 square-foot, ground floor location. The process lasted nearly two years, amidst significant uncertainty, and the deal equates to a $5-million-plus investment.

When asked about the move to TR Produce, Jason said, “This deal is as much about the Downtown San Diego community, as it is about Underground Elephant. Investments such as these are a commitment to community, to innovation, and to creativity—all of which will continue to define San Diego’s vibrant economy for years to come.”

The SDBJ noted the complexities that Jason and Steve had to overcome to secure the space, which included two different lease negotiations, three sets of attorneys, four brokerage firms, Wal-Mart, and Toby Keith among the interested parties. Moreover, to operate as an office, TR Produce required a conditional-use permit.

As was explained in a previous blog post, were it not for supportive local partners such as the Downtown San Diego Partnership, Mayor Faulconer’s Office, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, the San Diego Chamber and many others, Underground Elephant was geared up to relocate outside of California.

In addition to choosing to stay in San Diego, Underground Elephant is deepening its roots in the community by building a wildly creative office, with BASILE Studio at the helm of the design team. We believe that the best offices organically reflect the personalities of the people that work in them and we couldn’t be more excited to work with Paul.

For over twenty years Basile has been revolutionizing the design movement in San Diego with his full-service studio housed in the heart of the East Village. Paul has garnered a national reputation for his progressive designs and ability to execute every facet of his interiors from concept to construction. Most recently, Paul took home the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s 2014 Interior Design Orchid award for his prolific work on Polite Provisions and Soda  & Swine in Normal Heights.

“The East Village has been my home and workplace for decades, and I am itching to breathe some new life into this beautiful old building. Our design is definitely ‘out of the box’ but we think it’s going to be an inspiring space for the entire neighborhood to enjoy,” says Basile.

Being on the ground floor with inspiring interior common areas also supports Underground Elephant’s many community initiatives, which include regular civic-minded and industry-related events. Being connected to and participating in the community isn’t just a perk for our employees; it’s a core value.

As one of San Diego’s fastest growing companies, Underground Elephant is no stranger to office expansion. In fact, the move to TR Produce will mark the company’s fourth office since its founding in 2008.

Interestingly, Underground Elephant’s second office was in a second-story brick building located above Bub’s at 715 J Street. As fate would have it, years later Underground Elephant is returning to a bustling, hip J Street and East Village.

Much of this economic vitality in the East Village is thanks to Petco Park. On that note, the Padres look poised to have an incredible season this year—lucky for us our office will be right across from the park, literally… And the Friar is so excited we are coming to the neighborhood that he decided to swing by our office last week.

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