Surrounded by mountains, El Cajon is a community that embraces indoor-outdoor living and offers an array of recreational activities. From parks and cycling trails to libraries, stores, and restaurants, this town on the outskirts of San Diego has something for everyone. Small businesses such as boutiques, barbershops, jewelry stores, and independent grocers are abundant, in support of the diversity here, and the population growth shows no signs of slowing down.

If you’re looking to start a new business in El Cajon or give your current enterprise a competitive edge, our editorial team has compiled a list of the best commercial architects in the area. These firms have established their reputations by providing exceptional customer experience and design quality, and each has received recognition for its significant contributions to the city’s thriving business environment.

Studio E Architects

2258 1st Ave., San Diego, CA 92101

Studio E Architects is an architectural firm founded in 1987 by Eric Naslund, FAIA. The company offers services ranging from private residences and affordable housing to mixed-use, civic, and urban-planning projects, and the team portfolio has received over 130 awards, including the 2020 Orchid Award for Urban Planning from the San Diego Architectural Foundation, the 2020 National Award of Excellence from the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, and the 2020 Ruby Award Project of the Year from the San Diego Housing Federation. The agency has also been featured in a spectrum of industry publications, such as the San Jose Spotlight, Multi-Housing News, Residential Architect, and Affordable Housing Finance.

The Washington Street apartments, in La Quinta, are a gleaming example of Studio E’s ability to renovate and expand an existing complex, enhancing it to meet current sustainability needs and strengthen social connections within a community. Beyond updating the 72 existing units, with a broad palette of mountain colors, the team also added 68 new units, two community buildings, and swimming pools and enhanced the outdoor areas. This low-income senior housing now radiates a positive, cheerful, and lively atmosphere that promotes healthy lifestyle, and the project secured multiple honors for the Studio E team, including a merit award from AIA San Diego and the title of Best Affordable Senior Housing Community from PCBC’s Gold Nugget Awards.

Delawie Architecture

1515 Morena Blvd., San Diego, CA 92110

Delawie Architecture has been offering architectural and interior design services for over 60 years. The group’s portfolio presents project depth that ranges from civic, corporate, and hospitality to education and mixed-use developments, and the team has garnered numerous honors, including Engineering News-Record’s national award for Best Small Project 2021, the San Diego Green Building Council’s 2018 LEED BD+C merit award, and a 2017 APWA San Diego & Imperial Counties honor award for parks.

The firm recently designed an eight-acre campus for BioLegend, with the mission of providing a sense of community that inspires synergy. The focal point of the design is the main building’s  70-foot-tall glass atrium. The workspaces include offices, labs, breakrooms, and conference rooms with a floorplan designed to encourage interdepartmental collaborations. A pedestrian bridge was also incorporated, to connect the atrium to the amenity building that houses the fitness center, wellness bar, yoga rooms, game room, and more. This project received numerous awards, including the 2020 Orchid for Architecture from the San Diego Architectural Foundation, the 2020 Award of Excellence for Commercial Real Estate from the San Diego Business Journal, and the 2019 Best Manufacturing Project from ENR.

Jeff Katz Architecture

6353 Del Cerro Blvd., San Diego, CA 92120

With over 29 years of experience, Jeff Katz Architecture (JKA) has been deeply involved with community enrichment, tackling projects that span from public-safety to entertainment and parks and recreation. The firm is dedicated to creating feasible designs that are efficient and functional while prioritizing the client’s vision, utilizing a collaborative approach that ensures quality and lasting impact.

JKA has received multiple honors for its commitment to municipal improvement, including a 2020 Gold Award for Career 2 Fire Stations (under 15,000 square feet) from Firehouse Magazine, for the design of Chula Vista Fire Station 10, which serves the master-planned community of Millenia. The structure incorporates three-bay parking for fire trucks, along with administrative offices and living quarters for up to ten personnel, including amenities for recreational use. The exterior of the two-story station features a modern urban design in a neutral base and bright-yellow accent, with durable surfaces intended to last for over 50 years.

One World Architecture

9826 Ogram Dr., La Mesa, CA 91941

Rainbow Blossom Natural Foods is a regional leader for the natural- and organic-food movement; that is why they partnered with One World Architecture to design the first LEED-certified retail store in Kentucky. The team reused an existing building’s foundation and utilities, substantially reducing the amount of waste and resources required for construction. In addition, over 50% of the materials were sourced from regional manufacturers, significantly diminishing the impact of long-distance transportation, and onsite processes were adapted for eco-friendly context, including the reuse of heat from the refrigerated food cases within the store’s HVAC system.

One World has been optimizing green design processes for over 15 years. Along with their sustainable designs, they use real-time energy modeling and analysis software from the start of the design process, minimizing the amount of reworking and second-guessing. This process, along with the team’s effort to implement innovative site-specific solutions, ensures that every project they handle is completed embodies the client’s needs and long-term vision for success.

Hallock Architects

12365 Calle Albara 12, El Cajon, CA 92019

An 11,000-square-foot mixed-use facility situated in the rolling Sierra Foothills, Whitney Ranch House could be mistaken for a ski resort, with its intricate stonework exterior and mostly wood interior. From its flowing walk paths to its cozy exposed-beam indoor spaces, the facility exudes the charm of California’s easy living. The exceptional firm behind this stunning design is Hallock Architects. Named after principal Kevin Hallock, AIA, NCARB, the company has served El Cajon and its surrounding areas for over 12 years, and their growing portfolio includes commercial, residential, worship, and civic projects — all of which proudly uphold the team’s motto of “Envision. Build. Sustain.”