A rendering of the hotel to be built by RIDA Chula Vista, LLC. | Courtesy Port of San Diego

Bayfront Project Expected to Generate $475M Per Year

Carrie Rossenfeld Hospitality & Tourism

As has been recently reported by news sources, The Port of San Diego and the City of Chula Vista have authorized key agreements that significantly advance the resort hotel and convention center project for the Chula Vista Bayfront, a 535-acre project that is one of the largest waterfront developments on the West Coast. This collaborative development effort will create a world-class destination that reflects strong planning and design principles, economic feasibility and community benefits.

During a special joint meeting on April 24, the Board of Port Commissioners and the Chula Vista City Council unanimously approved a Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) between the Port, the City, and RIDA Chula Vista, LLC. The DDA sets forth the necessary steps for the parties to authorize the financing of the project and commence construction, ultimately leading to a ground lease and required subleases for development and operations of a world-class hotel and convention center. Additionally, the Board and City Council approved a revenue-sharing agreement between the two agencies.

The Chula Vista Bayfront resort hotel and convention center will be constructed west of Marina Parkway between H and G Streets. It will be operated by Gaylord Hotels, the large convention hotel brand of Marriott International. It will include approximately 1,600 hotel rooms, 275,000 usable square feet of convention and meeting space, and associated retail and resort-level amenities such as restaurant/bar/lounge facilities, recreational facilities, a spa, a pool with a lazy river, bike and boat rentals, and more.

Public infrastructure improvements will begin first and could get underway as soon as 2019, which includes preliminary site preparation, building access roads and new public streets (portions of E, G and H Streets), providing utility services and building the new Harbor Park.

The project is expected to have a tremendous regional economic impact, generating approximately $1.3 billion and creating more than 2,300 jobs (both direct and indirect) during the construction period. Once built, another $475 million is anticipated to be generated per year and nearly 7,800 permanent jobs created.

The resort hotel and convention center is the centerpiece and catalyst project of the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan (CVBMP), a decade-long joint planning effort by the Port, the City of Chula Vista and a broad coalition of stakeholders. The CVBMP was collaboratively planned through extensive public outreach that included more than 100 community meetings and resulted in a comprehensive Environmental Impact Report and Port Master Plan Amendment, which was approved by the Board in May 2010 and certified by the California Coastal Commission in August 2012. When complete, the public will enjoy more than 200 acres of parks, a shoreline promenade, walking trails, RV camping, shopping, dining and more. The CVBMP also establishes ecological buffers to protect wildlife habitat, species and other coastal resources.

SoCal Real Estate spoke with Adam Meyer, manager for the Port of San Diego’s real estate development department, regarding the project and how it will impact San Diego’s economy and real estate sector.

SoCal Real Estate: What stands out for you about the Chula Vista Bayfront project?
Meyer: This hotel and convention center is kind of a catalyst project to spur all future development in the Chula Vista Bayfront. It’s composed of mostly former industrial properties we’ve acquired over the last 20 years. We spent a lot of time demolishing and removing properties on these sites and have spent 15 years on the public process. We first entered into a cooperative agreement with the City of Chula Vista in 2003, and then the Great Recession hit a few years later, which delayed the process. Currently, we’re really getting it to a point where it will be development ready. We’ve had all the entitlements in place and are pleased that we could attract something this large that could be a catalyst for all the surrounding projects to come after that. There are only two remaining large coastal development sites in coastal California – this one and Treasure Island in San Francisco – and the approval process has been long, but in 2012, we received unanimous approval by the Coastal Commission with no one opposing it.

What does this project mean for San Diego’s economy?
With 2,300 construction jobs, 7,800 permanent jobs, about $1.3 billion generated during construction, and $475 million to be generated annually once built, this project will have a huge impact on San Diego’s economy. Beyond catalyzing development on Port property in Chula Vista, it will have a strong positive impact throughout the South Bay. It’s not just the RIDA project, but everything else that will be built on the bayfront.

How will it impact the commercial and residential real estate market in the county?
On the Chula Vista Bayfront, 1,600 hotel rooms are planned for the RIDA project, and we have another site with an additional 1,250 hotel rooms entitled as well as another privately owned parcel that’s entitled for 250 rooms. one of the unique things about the bayfront project is the partnership between us, the City, and Pacifica Companies, the hotel owner/developer and residential developer in San Diego that purchased a site adjacent to wildlife refuges. Pacifica was probably not going to get its project approved for that site because of all the environmental problems – like the fact that it was next to marshes and seasonal wetlands. So, the Port worked with Pacifica to exchange properties, which brought Pacifica’s residential development into a more central area of the bayfront. Adjacent to that are two different sites the Port owns that are sandwiched between Pacifica’s residential site and the site for the RIDA hotel project, which are entitled for 225,000 square feet of retail. In addition to building the infrastructure, the park, and other growth, our agreement with RIDA will likely allow us to build out the remaining parcels. The area for the Pacifica development is entitled for 1,500 residential units.

What are next steps for this project?
In the next 60 days, we will draft a lease between us and RIDA. Once it’s finalized, it will take about 18 months to get the financing completed. From there, we could break ground in late 2019/early 2020. The Port District will be issuing a coastal development permit this fall, which is an important step.

What else should our readers know about the project at this point?
We’re also building a resort RV park through Sun Communities, a REIT out of Michigan, that will include an RV park with RV stalls, RV park models, and a variety of RV park amenities. That is likely to break ground prior to the hotel breaking ground.