Downtown San Diego is experiencing a renaissance, thanks to the trend toward urban density, which means that the Port of San Diego has several development projects on its plate. SoCal Real Estate spoke with Penny Maus, department manager, real estate–business, for the Port of San Diego, to get the lowdown on these projects and how the Port manages them. (See slideshow below for images of the different Port projects.)
What are the most significant development projects the Port of San Diego is working on now?
Maus: Chula Vista Bayfront, Central Embarcadero, and Portside Pier.
Where do these projects stand now?
For Chula Vista Bayfront: Construction is expected to begin in the second half of 2019 on the Costa Vista RV Resort project by Sun Communities Inc. This will be the first development project on and a significant advancement for the Chula Vista Bayfront. It will enhance public access and public recreation by providing lower-cost overnight accommodations, resort-style amenities, walking trails and other improvements on and around the site.
The Chula Vista Bayfront Resort Hotel & Convention Center is currently in the design phase, and the Port, the City, and RIDA (developer) are each working to secure financing. In late 2019, we anticipate construction can begin, with site preparation and public infrastructure starting first, followed by the hotel and convention center.
Public outreach for the future Harbor and Sweetwater Parks will continue January and April 2019. The goal is to submit an application for a Coastal Development Permit in August 2019. Construction dates for each park are to be determined as they are dependent on the RV Resort and resort hotel and convention center schedules.
Construction on the Sweetwater Pathway project is anticipated to begin in summer 2019 with completion in spring 2020.
The Chula Vista Bayfront project represents one of the last truly significant large-scale waterfront development opportunities in Southern California. At approximately 535 acres, the Chula Vista Bayfront project transforms the Port’s and the City of Chula Vista’s underused industrial bayfront landscape into a thriving residential and waterfront resort destination. It includes:
– 70 acres of new parks (more than 200 acres total, including existing parks)
– 61 acres of additional open space
– Shoreline promenade and walking trails
– 2,850 total hotel rooms
– 200,000 square feet of cultural/retail uses
– 100,000 square feet of mixed-use commercial recreation/marine-related office uses
– 1,100-3,000 parking spaces
– 225,000 square feet of visitor-serving retail and marina support
– Ecological buffers to protect wildlife habitat, species and other coastal resources
– Future development opportunities include additional retail, industrial business uses, office and open space.
For the Central Embarcadero project, Port staff continues to work with 1HWY1, the developer selected in 2016, to redevelop the Central Embarcadero. The Central Embarcadero is a prime site of approximately 70 acres of land and water situated between downtown San Diego and the San Diego Bayfront. This highly visible and desirable area includes Seaport Village, Santa Monica Seafood (formerly Chesapeake Fish), and surrounding areas between the Hyatt and the USS Midway Museum.
More than 70 percent of the proposed project includes parks, open spaces and plazas, piers, walkways, beaches, nature trails, shared streets, and public rooftops.
1HWY1 has also proposed an observation tower, an aquarium, hotels, retail shops and restaurants, office space, and educational center, event center, docks, and slips.
Port staff continues to work closely with 1HWY1 to submit the project description, which is due December 31. Once submitted, Port staff will conduct a comprehensive analysis of the project description. Staff will return to the Board with an update on progress in early 2019. In the meantime, 1HWY1 and staff will also continue to conduct due diligence, public outreach, and a financial feasibility and regulatory review.
For Portside Pier, construction continues on The Brigantine, Inc.’s Portside Pier on the North Embarcadero. It’s anticipated to open in early 2020. When it opens, it will feature four dining concepts and three public access features. The dining concepts include Brigantine on the Bay, Miguel’s Cocina, Ketch Grill & Taps, and Portside Gelato & Coffee. The public access features include a second-floor public walkway with panoramic views of San Diego Bay; a second-floor public viewing deck with tables and benches for up to 108 visitors, and a dock and dine capable of docking up to four vessels (available for use by patrons and non-patrons of the adjacent restaurants and water taxis).
What do you look for in waterfront development projects that you greenlight?
The Board has discretion on what it would like to see for each of our waterfront development projects. Because each project is different, various factors are weighed when the Board considers a project for approval. Overall, the Port looks for projects that contribute to a remarkable way of life for visitors and residents — projects that ensure everyone feels welcomed, connected and inspired by our beautiful San Diego Bay waterfront. Additionally, because we are self-funded, revenues generated by waterfront development and other streams support vital public services and amenities — parks, piers, public safety, waterfront events, and more.
How do you keep costs in check on these projects?
Port projects are considered public/private partnerships in which the majority of costs are borne by the developers. The bulk of those costs, beyond construction, are incurred during the entitlement process. One way for developers to help keep costs down is to assemble a team of seasoned professionals that are familiar with the Port’s unique entitlement process, which includes but is not limited to CEQA review and Coastal and other agency permitting (such as Army Corps, Coast Guard, member City, and Navy).
What do you avoid in development projects?
Things the Port “avoids” in development projects are uses that are inconsistent with the Port Act and Public Trust. Since the Port’s land is state land, it is meant to be enjoyed by all; therefore, our uses are “visitor-serving” and focused on use of the water so you won’t see residential, uses that are geared to locals (like a grocery store or home-improvement store) or uses that aren’t water dependent.
What else should our readers know about the Port of San Diego?
The Port of San Diego has been conducting an integrate-planning initiative that is often referred to as “the future of the Port.” The Port is in the final, policy-development phase of the projected multi-year planning process to update its Port Master Plan, which is its governing land-use document. This agency-wide initiative will guide the future of approximately 6,000 acres of land and water within Port of San Diego jurisdiction along the San Diego Bay waterfront, which will pave the way for future development opportunities to come to market. The Port is conducting public outreach at every step of the way, so parties interested in doing business with the Port should keep an eye on this exciting process.