San Diego port district commissioners have authorized staff to begin environmental and other preliminary studies of a new $270 million hotel development proposed for a downtown site behind San Diego Convention Center. The site was previously eyed for a planned $520 million expansion of the center.

At their recent meeting, port officials emphasized that the project will eventually require separate formal approvals by port commissioners and the California Coastal Commission, and the decision to begin studies was not a direct endorsement of the project.

Local developers Fifth Avenue Landing LLC and The Robert Green Co. announced in January a proposal with the name 5th Avenue Landing, which would include a high-rise hotel with approximately 830 rooms and a low-rise, 565-bed hotel, along with an expanded marina, new public open spaces and waterfront viewing areas.

According to documents filed with the port district, the high-rise tower hotel could ultimately include between 830 and 850 rooms, rising 498 feet with a total of 44 stories. The smaller “low cost visitor serving hotel” would be a five-story, “L” shaped structure reaching a height of 70 feet with active retail along the edge of the promenade located near the current Hilton San Diego Bayfront hotel and its bayside park.

The proposal also calls for a 44-foot-tall building between the new hotels, which would include a parking garage with space for between 213 and 285 vehicles on its first floor. The second floor of that building would have meeting space, and the roof deck would serve as a public plaza.

San Diego-based Fifth Avenue Landing LLC has held the ground lease on the six-acre property for more than three decades. In May 2015, convention center operators backed out of plans to acquire the parcel, following a 2014 court decision that struck down a hotelier-approved funding mechanism for the expansion.

Fifth Avenue Landing’s lease with the port district calls for the eventual development of new hotel rooms, but local government and convention center officials have also deemed the parcel crucial for any future contiguous expansion of the center.

Robert Green Co., based in Encinitas, is currently at work on a new $100 million downtown luxury hotel called Pendry San Diego, under construction in the Gaslamp Quarter.