The Press

Bell officials hope brewery jumpstarts development

BELL — Revitalization is coming to downtown Bell and it’s starting with Mexican craft beer. At least that’s what city officials are banking on.

Real estate developers Ventana Ventures and Atwater Infrastructure have signed a contract to lease the former Golden Bakery building as well as the adjacent building from the city of Bell.

Ventana Ventures Managing Partner Diego Torres-Palma brokered the deal for the 7,000-square-foot building located at 4400 Gage Ave. The partners will start construction in May to develop the flagship location for Border X Brewing, a family-owned brewery based in San Diego. Completion is scheduled for the summer.

Jackie Choi, economic development specialist for the city of Bell, says that economic development is the city’s number one priority. According to Choi, Bell officials have also signed a contract with ArroyoSeco Development Group to build a restaurant and retail space on Gage Avenue.

“The goal is to create a downtown that brings people into the city to shop, dine and enjoy cultural experiences,” she said. “Border X aligns with the city’s initiative to begin the transformation of that corridor.”

The development deal with the city is the first project for the Ventana Ventures-Atwater Infrastructure Partnership. Atwater is an investment and real estate development firm with more than $90 million in assets that sources and structures private capital for social infrastructure projects for government and institutional clients throughout the country.

Ventana Ventures is a real estate development firm started by Torres-Palma, a technology engineer who recently relocated to Los Angeles from Silicon Valley.

Atwater Infrastructure, Ventana Ventures and Border X Brewing are all Latino-owned companies that strategically chose to do business in Bell.

“With this partnership, we’re trying to do something different,” Torres-Palma said. “We’re creating a platform, where we go into cities like Bell, purchase empty assets and bring in tenants with a little bit of Latino flavor like Border X, as opposed to the traditional “cookie-cutter” chain stores.”

Torres-Palma says the partners hope to replicate the process throughout the state.

This is the second location for Border X Brewing owner David Favela. He started brewing beer in a small warehouse “a stone’s throw away from the border” in Barrio Logan with his brother and two nephews.

Both brothers had corporate jobs and worked long hours. Brewing beer seemed a good way to do something fun together as a family.

What started off as an enjoyable pastime ended when the brothers opened their doors for what was planned as a small beer tasting and found over 50 people standing in line. That was in 2013.

Since then Border X has outgrown two locations and been named by the New York Times as one of the “Top Five Places to Go in San Diego.”

Favela is proud of the impact that Border X Brewing has had on San Diego’s Barrio Logan community, which fell on hard times in the 1990s and had a reputation for gang activity.

“Breweries are destination locations,” Favela said. “Now people drive from all over to get here. We helped revive the entire community [in Barrio Logan]. It’s one of the best grassroots development projects in San Diego that I’m aware of.”

Bell City Councilman Ali Saleh also sees the brewery as a catalyst for Bell’s redevelopment.

“Ultimately, what I envision for downtown Bell is a vibrant night life with a lot of great restaurants, and a lot of great businesses,” Saleh said. “A place where the community will be able to work locally, shop locally and walk along Gage Avenue. I think this will be a great start for us.”