North Embarcadero Visionary Plan first phase sets the stage
By Roger Showley-Originally published April 22, 2011 at 3 p.m., updated April 23, 2011 at 7:46 a.m.
Downtown, transformed with many new skyscrapers over the last 40 years, will see more beauty at the water's edge as the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan takes hold./ U-T file photo
The California Coastal Commission’s approval last week of the $29.6 million start to North Embarcadero improvements is just the beginning of a decade or more of improvements worth billions of dollars coming to the roughly two-mile stretch of the downtown waterfront.
From hotels and parks to new shops and restaurants, the water’s edge will be the place to see and be seen, to celebrate and contemplate, if everything that planners at the city, county and port have imagined for decades comes to pass.
The first phase covers Broadway between Pacific Highway and Harbor Drive and Harbor Drive between B Street and Navy piers. New landscaping, a wider esplanade and ticketing booths and a cafe are planned, with completion in 2013.
Scott Peters, chairman of the San Diego Unified Port District board, said the new, improved waterfront will appeal to both locals and visitors, while at same time retaining some of the existing working waterfront of cargo ships, cruise ships and fishing boats.
“The idea is to create a waterfront so that when people talk about the great waterfronts of the world, they’ll mention San Diego,” he said.
And the list of current projects is not necessarily the end of the discussion. Peters noted that the next few months will see a renewed conversation, led by a citizens advisory committee, to imagine still more possibilities.
Ideas over the years have included a permanent symphony pops concert amphitheater and Sydney-style opera house, a magnificent aquarium and maritime museum complex anchored by the Star of India, an alternative to the approved Navy Broadway Complex plan of hotels and offices at the foot of Broadway, and a redevelopment of the Solar plant at Laurel and Harbor Drive.
Futurists have periodically recommended moving Lindbergh Field and redeveloping its site into a new master-planned residential, mixed-use community, although nearly a billion dollars is being spent to enlarge the airport’s capacity right now.
“All those ideas can come forward now and they should,” Peters said. “This is the opportunity in the coming months for anyone who has an idea about how to enhance the waterfront for the benefit of the region.”
Kim Kilkenny, chairman of the Centre City Development Corp. overseeing downtown in general, said the waterfront and downtown improvements will together “positively overwhelm” the public.
“I don’t think there was a lot of anticipation and expectation that a lot of these improvements were ever going to happen,” Kilkenny said. “The North Embarcadero will be an extraordinary experience for San Diegans and visitors alike. It is going to be a must-see venue for people who come downtown or San Diego. “It’s going to bring us together. ”
San Diego City Councilman Kevin Faulconer, who represents downtown, said even as neighborhoods everywhere seek to add or improve their parks, those residents cherish the waterfront as a shared asset as well.
“We all have ownership in our bay and waterfront, whether we live in Del Cerro or Rancho Bernardo or City Heights,” he said. “The waterfront belongs to everybody.”
Citizens Advisory Committee
The port district has formed a committee to look at the next phase of the North Embarcadero improvements in advance of an environmental impact report and a master plan amendment that will go to the California Coastal Commission.
The committee meetings are held at from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Embarcadero Planning Center, 585 Harbor Lane at West Harbor Drive and Pacific Highway. The schedule through August will include these subjects:
• May 11: Youth hostel at Grape Street
• May 18: Harbor Drive alignment, parking, Navy Pier Veterans Park and G Street Mole
• June 1: Planning and organizing public events and activities
• June 15: County Administration Center park, Grape Street piers and plaza
• July 6: Homeland security, B Street Pier uses
• July 20: Economic feasibility and wrapup of workshops to date
• Aug. 3: Review of preferred plan alternatives
Members of the committee are:
Public interest community:
Citizens Coordinate for Century 3, Diane Coombs
San Diego Downtown Residents Association Group – Gary Smith
San Diego Navy Broadway Complex Coalition – Don Wood,
(alternate: Ian Trowbridge)
U.S. Green Building Council – Carolyn Keith
Partners for Livable Places – Charles Kaminski
Downtown San Diego Partnership – Ray Varella
San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce – Kathi Riser
San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau – Joe Terzi
Port Tenants Association – Jim Unger
Jim Frost, architect, planner
American Institute of Architects, San Diego chapter Urban Design Committee – Phil Bona
Centre City Advisory Committee – Scott Bohrer
Technical Advisory Committees
Linda Scott – San Diego Unified Port District
Brad Richter – Centre City Development Corporation
Ann Gonsalves – City of San Diego
Samir Hajjiri – City of San Diego
John Keating – Linscott Law & Greenspan
Brett Caldwell – San Diego County Regional Airport Authority
Owen Lang – Architect
Elaine Nesbitt – EE&K Architects
State action on waterfront began 100 years ago
Key to waterfront map
The first phase of the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan is just one of many changes afoot along San Diego’s downtown waterfront.
Here’s an update on many of them:
1. Grape Street garage and youth hostel: A mixed-use project, possibly including a hostel, retail spaces and as many 800 spaces in a parking garage would be built on the lot between Grape and Hawthorn. A developer would be sought for the projected $40 million project for completion in five or six years.
2. Crescent piers: Two wood piers may be rebuilt as the existing concrete pier remains. The construction cost and time schedule not yet determined.
3. San Diego County Administration Center parks: The J.B. Askew Building, home to the county health department since 1958s will be demolished this summer to make way for a $38 million, 12-acre park flanking the county headquarters building. Funding comes from the county share of downtown redevelopment funds and completion is projected by the end of 2013. A 288-space underground parking garage is included for an off-site garage atKettner Boulevard and Cedar Street in nearby Little Italy, principally for county employees and the public after hours.
4. Holiday Inn on the Bay: The lease expires in 2029 and the owners are discussing remodeling or redeveloping the property. Parkland advocates hope the hotel will be rebuilt slightly to the east to make room for an extension of the setback park planned at Lane Field to the south. Design, cost and timing undetermined.
5. Navy Facilities Engineering Command, 1220 Pacific Highway: The Navy wants $26.5 million to build a new headquarters elsewhere in exchange for terminating its lease that still has decades to run. One suggestion is to borrow the money from the downtown redevelopment fund and pay it back from Lane Field hotel rents.
6. B Street Pier Cruise Ship Terminal: A one-time warehouse has served as a terminal for more than 20 years and was to have been replaced with a large, modern facility. Short-term plans call for renovation at a cost of up to $44 million, including interior upgrades, new gangways, escalators and traffic ramps to separate passengers from traffic.
7. Lane Field hotels: A developer group has a long-term lease to build a $470 million, 800-room luxury hotel. But the plans are being scaled back with details expected in June because of financing difficulties. A mid-level rather than luxury hotel is now considered more feasible. Completion is projected for the third quarter of 2013, assuming financing is obtained. The design is being reconfigured to accommodate a 2-acre setback park or plaza on Harbor Drive in the space where the hotel was first planned. The park would be extended by a half-acre if the Navy building at 1220 Pacific Highway is removed and the hotel could be expanded onto the balance of the site as well.
8. Broadway Pier: A new terminal, Broadway Pavilion, opened on the pier in December and the port has hired a consultant, Public Works of New York City, to oversee programming of public events along the North Embarcadero as well as at all other port parks around the bay. The second phase of the Embarcadero improvements is expected to include beautifying the forecourt of the Broadway Pavilion where such events can take place when cruise ships are absent. Officials hope the first such event can be held this year.
9. Navy Pier: The Midway Aircraft Museum is responsible for preparing a plan to convert the pier to park as well as continued parking use, but the timing and who pays the cost have yet to be determined.
10. Navy Broadway Complex: Developer Douglas F. Manchester holds a long-term lease with the Navy to demolish its old warehouse and office complex and replace it with Pacific Gateway, a billion-dollar-plus new Navy headquarters plus hotels, offices, retail space and a museum complex. Timing depends on financing as well as the outcome of several lawsuits. Critics still hope that if Manchester can’t move forward, the plan can be changed to eliminate most of the development and create a local version of Chicago’s Millennium Park.
11. Ruocco Park: A $6 million, 3-acre park, is scheduled to break ground in October for completion next year. The location is north of Seaport Village on a parking lot and part of the Chesapeake Fish Co. complex. It is being funded in part by the foundation set up by the late modernist architect Lloyd and his wife, Ilse, founder of San Diego’s environmental and interior program, who were active in 1960s and ‘70s environmental and planning causes.
12. Old Police Station: The former headquarters of the San Diego Police Department, a Spanish Colonial revival historic site built in 1939, would be converted into 80,000 square feet of restaurant and retail use by Terramar Retail Centers, the company that operates Seaport Village. The company’s option expires this year, but it could be extended, modified or offered to other developers. Action has depended on signing up enough tenants to secure a $40 million commercial loan.
13. Seaport Village: Terramar hopes to redevelop the popular retail center that opened in 1980 and win a lease extension beyond its current 2018 expiration. The port rejected the first proposal last year. A two-day public workshop on the possibilities for the complex is planned for mid-May.
14. San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina: A $200 million, five-year renovation is under way with a wider pedestrian access way created between Harbor Drive and the waterfront. Completion: 2014
15. Cabrillo Circulator Shuttle system: The port plans to buy five 18-seater buses and hire an outside operator for a shuttle between the Cabrillo National Monument and the San Diego Convention Center. A study is under way to confirm routing and patron projections with a go-ahead by the port board this fall and operations beginning next year. The fare structure has not been set.
16. San Diego Convention Center expansion: An environmental impact report on the proposed third phase is expected this summer with construction projected to begin in time for opening in 2015. Financing of what was once pegged at $752 million is still the biggest hurdle to moving forward. A 500-room expansion by Hilton also is contemplated adjacent to the center or on top of garage next to the nearby Hilton San Diego Bayfront.
17. Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal: The port intends to keep the facility in business as a cargo facility but other civic leaders have spoken of converting the terminal to cruise-ship use, building a football stadium above it or redeveloping the property to fit into a sports and entertainment district from the waterfront to Petco Park and a proposed $950 million Chargers stadium. Current plans call for spending $2.5 million next year to demolish a 50,000-square-foot storage shed and use the space to allow extra berthing at the pier and improved maneuverability of equipment on the pier.
ROGER SHOWLEY • U-T WITH ASSISTANCE OF LORI WEISBERG