Downtown San Diego Development, A Short History of Significant Projects

As many of you may have already noted we’re a San Diego based company, so it made sense for us to start our interesting decision series with a local issue.

Downtown San Diego Development, A Short History Of Significant Projects

To start, some general background.

Downtown San Diego Development, A Short History Of Significant Projects

Downtown San Diego has undergone a major redevelopment effort which started in the mid 1980’s. At that time the area was, frankly unsafe and a general eye sore. Pete Wilson, while he was mayor, once quipped that if you shot a laster down Broadway(the main East-West road downtown) at 5pm you wouldn’t hit anyone who wasn’t staggering. Things are much different now although no one is going to mistake downtown San Diego for New York or San Francisco. Approximately 30,000 people currently live downtown with 90,000 expected residents by 2025. Additionally 175,000 jobs are located downtown with another 100,000 expected to be located there by 2025. Downtown is also a very popular hotel/vacation destinaton for both leisure travel as well as conventions. San Diego is one of the top 5 convention destinations in the USA and although convention center expansion is seemingly always talked about it may be likely to start again at the end of the economic slump(more on this later)

Downtown San Diego Development, A Short History Of Significant Projects

In the past 25+ years Downtown San Diego has seen at least 5 major projects approved and built:

Downtown San Diego Development, A Short History Of Significant Projects

Horton Plaza: Ground breaking took place in 1981, opening in 1985. A multilevel shopping mall, most famous for it’s architecture and setup. It’s intentionally frustrating for tourists(no that isn’t a typo) as it is modeled after Venice, Italy with canals and no logical way to get from one side of the mall to the other, which you can see below. None the less, it has become a central park of both downtown and cultural San Diego:

Gaslamp Quarter

A 16.5 block historical neighborhood(at least for Southern California!) which is Victorian architecture from the late 1880’s mostly. The area now contains more the 100 restaurants and nightclubs and is probably the most centralized nightlife district in California. Part of the charm of the Gaslamp Quarter is that it is entirely walkable from start to finish and is in close proximity to public transportation as well as the 10,000 hotel rooms in downtown San Diego.

San Diego Convention Center: Voters approved a bond measure in 1983, in typical San Diego fashion construction did not start until 1987 with completion in 1989. In 2001 an expansion was completed which doubled the size of the center, although the square footage is still not large enough to handle the 5 biggest conventions in America. Recently city governement has thought that they may be able to gain a larger share of the convention business due to some of the backlash against Las Vegas by politicians in Washington. San Diego would like to take advantage of it’s reputation as a family friendly destination. Located directly on the water at the base of the Gaslamp District the convention center is located within 1 mile of 10,000 hotel rooms with another 4,000 in the planning stages.

Seaport Village

“Ground Breaking” in 1978 with completion in 1980. Locals always laugh at the idea of ground breaking for seaport village because the majority of the 90,000 sq feet complex is built on landfill gained when the military dredged San Diego Bay to allow larger aircraft carriers to port across the Bay at Naval Air Station Coronado. Seaport is a car free environment with walking paths through single story buildings, ponds, landscaping and views of the bay. It is a popular spotting point for tourists and locals for its unique shops and environment. It is located within a half mile of the cruise ship terminal which has caused a dramatic uptick in business recently.

Petco Park

More then a few books could be written about how Petco Park was eventually built and the costs associated with it, however one general concept is very clear: Petco is one of the very few sports stadium projects funded in part with public money to be a GOOD investment for the citizens in financial terms. Financing of the $ 450M stadium and park at the park was a complicated venture with money coming from the team, the city of San Diego, the CCDC and the Port of San Diego. San Diego voters approved Prop C in 1998 which gave public funds to the project.

The park is the center of a downtown redevelopment zone. Originally the city expected to receive $ 500M-$ 1B in private capital for new development directly bordering the park, at this writing over $ 2B has been spent and after paying the bonds on the project the city of San Diego estimates they earn approximately 10M per year with larger revenues expected once development is completed and as the team can bring more out of season events to the park like rugby tournaments, concerts etc.

Pictured is the Western Metal Supply Company Building which was built in 1909. It now forms the left field foul line of Petco Park after the city moved it approximately 1 block instead of destroying it. It houses the Padres team store, suites, a restaurant/bar and rooftop suites.

Mark Aselstine
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