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Monday, January 28, 2013


Bud Fischer at the Lafayette Hotel, a historic property he helped to preserve.  North Park News photos by Tom Shess
Editor's note:  Media Monday will return next week.

LED NORTH PARK RENAISSANCE--On January 24, Arnold “Bud” Fischer, 80, one of the important figures in helping North Park emerge from being a blighted neighborhood into one of the hippest neighborhoods in America, succumbed to lung disease.

Bud Fischer was also one of the first developers to invest in historic neighborhoods like North Park and the Gaslamp Quarter, when both areas had seen better days.
Bud Fischer inside the historic Olympic sized pool
at the Lafayette hotel during a 1990s renovation

He was a keen businessman, who had a knack for seeing the big picture.  His real estate deals in the Gaslamp and North Park paved the way for others to jump on board.  He started the fiscal parade toward better days.

In North Park, the community is a success because of two significant projects that he undertook.  Both were historic properties.

Lafayette Hotel.
In the mid-90s, one of Bud’s partnerships purchased the bankrupt Lafayette hotel for $2.125 million in 1995 and invested $2.5 million more in renovations to the historic property.  By February 1999, the refurbished hotel celebrated a grand reopening. 

Today, the hotel (back to being called the Lafayette) is a hotspot for lodging, dining, live jazz venues just like it was after its original grand opening on July 1, 1946.

 North Park Theatre.
Bud Fischer succeeded in his goal to rehabilitate the 1928 North Park Vaudeville Theatre into a commercial success.  In the early 2000’s, he faced more reasons not to support the project than positives.  But, Mr. Fischer saw the big picture.  He knew that if the historic theatre was going to be able to support itself it had to include viable tenants and provide places to park for those coming to theatre events.

By the time Bud Fischer affixed his name to the rebirth of the theatre he had built a solid reputation with City Hall that he walked the walk.  City Hall and others dealing with Bud Fischer, like downtown businessman Dana Blasi, praised him for his honesty and loyalty.  Bud got things done.

But, when things got iffy with regards to getting City and community support for his vision for the reborn theatre, he put his cards and reputation on the line.  He knew if the theatre and the entire North Park business sector were going to thrive it had to have a ton of parking.  A headline in the June 2002 issue of North Park News was very telling: “No Garage; No Live Theater.”

North Park News reporter Terrance Burke penned, “Before the curtain rises on a refurbished North Park Theatre, so must a parking garage.  The show won’t go on without one, in the view of Bud Fischer of Trilogy Real Estate, whose theatre redevelopment proposal was approved was approved by the San Diego City Council in April (2002). ‘If they (the City) will build a garage, you will have a live theatre.  No garage; no live theater.’”

In October, 2005, the theatre and the garage opened for business.  It is no coincidence that the retail and residential rebirth of North Park went into high gear after that.

Today, there is a plaque on the wall of the theatre’s 29th Street entrance near the box office, which thanks Bud and Esther Fischer for their vision.  If you turn around from that plaque you will see a very large parking garage.

That parking garage is one of the huge selling factors that retailers took into consideration before investing in North Park locations.
All those cool businesses that now occupy North Park were made possible because a new generation of business types jumped on the bandwagon.  They got the big picture that Bud Fischer drew for them.  Bottom line: North Park is the hippest neighborhood in America because of the skill and vision of one of San Diego’s keenest businessmen.
This week, as we sit enjoying a dinner at West Coast Tavern, located in the North Park Theatre, let’s lift a craft beer and toast: “To Mr. Bud Fischer and to the City of San Diego and North Park’s community leadership for listening to the man.”

And, on a personal note: one more testament to Bud Fischer’s loyalty and honesty was the fact he was married to Esther for 60 years. You’ll be missed, and just as important: thank you, thank you!

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