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KMA Transforms Aging Retail Center into Contemporary Lifestyle Destination

Tim Rubesh has breathed new life into many buildings in his 32 years at KMA Architecture and Engineering. The firm’s draftsman turned vice president turned principal, has experience renovating commercial, industrial and retail buildings as well as building them from the ground up. As KMA prepares to take on the façade renovation of a multi-tenant retail center located in north San Diego, Tim reflects on the firm’s trusted solutions and the concepts in store for this major renovation project.

Q. Why does this retail center need a new look?

A. The center was constructed in the mid-1970s. Over the years, it has morphed into a mish-mash of storefronts, stucco and signage gone wrong and is now in dire need of a facelift. When KMA finishes renovation, the building’s exterior will feature a new signage system as well as an interesting blend of fresh shapes and materials. It is going to be an exciting and enjoyable place to shop.

Q. How is KMA working to make this renovation a smart investment for the client?

A. Our first priority is to add value wherever possible and reduce construction costs by maintaining the existing building structure. In this case, our design team will reinvent the façade with a contemporary look inspired by rustic building elements such as wood planking and corrugated metal roofing.

Q. What are some of the proposed site improvements?

A. In addition to using wood planking and corrugated metal roofing to accentuate tenant entries and define pedestrian circulation on the property, several additions are planned. An enlarged stairway will join the second level parking to the lower level tenant spaces. An outdoor dining patio with vibrant new landscaping will establish an inviting outdoor lifestyle space.

Q. What was your inspiration for the concept?

A. During the development of our initial “raw” pencil sketch we realized that we needed to bring the client’s desired industrial feel down to the pedestrian level. Previously, the elements had been higher up and out of reach. This sketch of the design which will repeat throughout the property helped to illustrate the element’s context as well as explore how the pedestrian walkway and storefronts will interact. We reinforced the pedestrian level enhancements by changing the old aluminum storefronts to “thick” wood members to finalize our concept.

Q. How is KMA creating trust and delivering value on this project?

A. KMA is creating trust by listening to the client, understanding their needs and translating that information into designs that reflect the client’s desires. We are delivering value by exploring alternative materials including their cost and longevity, and by keeping the scope of the building improvements under a threshold that would trigger a costly structural upgrade. Most importantly, we are providing the client with the information and ability to make informed decisions about how the facility will appear as well as perform.


When a friend recruited Rich Guerena as a volunteer for the Architecture, Construction and Engineering (ACE) Mentoring Program, he expected to make a couple brief appearances. Five years later, Rich is a highly committed ACE mentor who spends two hours every other week inspiring high school students to pursue careers in design and construction.

Rich recalls a particularly memorable student who spurred his commitment to the program. “A couple years ago, a junior started with the idea that he might want to be some type of designer, but he didn’t really have any idea what that meant,” said Rich. With ACE mentoring, that student went on to graduate with a strong interest in architecture and a sizable scholarship to San Diego Newschool of Architecture and Design.

“He had been planning to take a few years off after high school to save money before he could attend college. With the scholarship money and his foot in the door at Newschool, he was able to begin right away. I think the ACE program allowed him to focus on what he wanted to do and got him started down that path right away.”

The San Diego branch of the ACE Mentor program continues to provide students with opportunities like the one that inspired Rich. At their Tenth Annual Scholarship Banquet last May, the local organization crossed the $1 million mark in total scholarship money awarded.

“The ACE Mentor program is great because students can get a taste of what a career in Architecture, Construction or Engineering might be like, learn about the different fields, how we work together, and get help making decisions about college and career paths,” said Rich.

Rich is proud to inspire a passion for architecture in the students he mentors and has been surprised by the impact the ACE program has made on his own life. “When I look at my last 17 years through their younger eyes, it reinvigorates some of that passion for what I do. Any time you have to explain your career, what’s rewarding and what’s not, the self-reflection helps put it in perspective.” Rich’s enthusiasm for his career is evident to coworkers and students alike. He was recently named Senior Associate and plans to continue mentoring as well as looking for other ways to give back using his talent.

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