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Tuesday, Jul 23, 2024

Keeping Infrastructure on Pace With Downtown Growth Could Reach $1B By 2030

A cool $437.6 million , that’s how much the Centre City Development Corp. figures that the city of San Diego has gained from public improvements it has shepherded downtown since its inception in 1975. The meter continues to run with projects in the works and in the pipeline throughout a redevelopment area that covers some 1,450 acres.

That figure could morph to $1 billion by the year 2030, according to Nancy Graham, CCDC president and chief operating officer. Nothing is cheap when you’re an agency charged with serving eight distinct neighborhoods, each with its own infrastructure demands, she added.

“People see downtown and they think, ‘Wow, downtown is done,’ ” said Graham. “But it’s really only half the way through. There are still so many things that need to be done, in terms of infrastructure in particular.”

Among CCDC’s priorities is boosting the number of fire stations to accommodate the growing population downtown, and creating more public spaces. Graham credits city pioneer Alonzo E. Horton for having been “a great real estate guy,” but added, “He was not a visionary when it came to parks.”

CCDC is in the process of acquiring land and doing the design for half a dozen parks, said Graham, adding that, “This is something that has been lacking, and that the residents feel strongly about. This is their tax dollars at work.”

CCDC has a 2008 budget that totals $217.5 million, and taps into funding sources derived from tax increment, tax allocation bonds, developer proceeds and interest income.

About $82 million has been earmarked for land acquisitions for parks and open space; the design of new fire stations and the C Street corridor improvements; additional funding for the pedestrian bridge , a provision of the North Embarcadero plan, an estimated $230 million public infrastructure program to improve San Diego’s so-called “front porch”; the Downtown Quiet Zone project, involving more than a dozen grade crossings; and a provision for the proposed downtown main library.

Also included is funding for public improvements in Cortez, East Village, Little Italy, the Gaslamp Quarter and Columbia/core neighborhoods, including sidewalks, streetlights and parks.

San Diego City Councilman Kevin Faulconer, whose 2nd District includes downtown, shares Graham’s concerns about such issues as boosting public safety, fire protection and open spaces.

“With our new community plan, now is the opportunity for us to ensure that we do that,” he said.

Faulconer also agreed that much remains to be done.

“It is an exciting time for downtown, because of all the investment still occurring,” he said. “We are not even halfway done yet. There are a lot of good plans in the works, and a lot of investment that is going to be happening in downtown. It’s the urban hub for our region, with a lot of important infrastructure projects.”

Yet, a perception remains that CCDC has outlived its usefulness, said Graham.

“Critics say that CCDC doesn’t have a purpose anymore, but we are the city’s arm that does infrastructure work,” she said. “We still have a long way to go. You see buildings coming up out of the ground, but we need infrastructure to support all of this.”

According to Graham’s calculations, if CCDC ceased to exist, the taxpayers would be footing the bill for infrastructure improvements through increased taxes, or doing without.

“Some people don’t get it,” she said. “There is a huge amount of work to be done, and, frankly, we will never have enough money to do everything.”


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