Thousands of Residential Units Expected in the Next Several Years
Downtown Looks More Like a Live-Work Community Every Day
All across Downtown San Diego, construction crews are busy building hundreds of new condominiums and apartments, and more projects are in the planning process, according to those involved in the development.
“Since the Centre City Development Corp. started 25 years ago, we’ve created 4,700 new homes in the Downtown area,” said Peter Hall, president of the city’s Downtown redevelopment agency. “There will be about 2,600 new homes built there in the next three to five years. Those figures date from January and since then, five to 10 new projects have started the planning process, bringing the total residential development to 3,000 units.”
The 1,500-acre Downtown redevelopment area is bounded on the east by Interstate 5, on the north by Laurel Street, on the west by San Diego Bay and on the south by Crosby and Commercial streets, Hall said.
There are more than 15 residential projects under construction Downtown now, he added. Plus new projects are entering the planning pipeline every week.
“Over the past 25 years, there has been a little over $2 billion of redevelopment work Downtown, mostly by the private sector,” Hall said. “Over the next three years, we will have a potential $3 billion worth of new development of all types.”
– ‘Paradise In Progress’
It’s become so hectic in the area with the residential and commercial development, the San Diego Convention Center expansion and site preparation for the new Padres baseball park that the CCDC has set up the “Paradise in Progress” information clearinghouse program.
It’s designed to provide information on street closures and other traffic problems in the neighborhood, said Camille Ohlson, CCDC construction information officer. Information on Downtown construction can be obtained by calling (619) 533-7150 or visiting the CCDC’s Web site at (www.ccdc.com), she said. A list of projects in the redevelopment area is also available there.
Russ Valone, president of MarketPoint Realty Advisors of San Diego (formerly known as Market Profiles of San Diego), said he sees Downtown becoming one of the hottest housing markets in the county.
“There are 50 percent more units under construction or in the planning process right now than currently exist Downtown,” Valone said. “That’s excluding single room occupancy units and housing for seniors and the disabled.”
The new baseball park may be helping to accelerate some residential activity, but it is not totally responsible for it, Valone said. Very few of the units are in the East Village neighborhood where the ballpark district is located. The district is roughly centered at the intersection of L Street and Ninth Avenue.
– Neighborhoods Set
For New Residences
Most of the new residential units are in the marina district to the west, and Cortez Hill and Little Italy to the north.
Nearly all the condominiums being built right now will be offered for sale at well over $300,000, Valone said.
“A lot of the development is going to be high-rise. It needs lots of steel, and steel is expensive,” he said.
A variety of well-to-do people are buying the homes.
“You have older couples whose children have grown and left home, and young professionals with dual incomes,” Valone said. “If you look at some of the projects, you will see single parents with maybe one child and single individuals who buy a unit and bring in a roommate. The 24-hour lifestyle seems to be the main reason people buy in the area.”
George Carlson, vice president at Burnham Real Estate Services of San Diego, echoed Valone’s comments on the volume of Downtown development, both residential and commercial.
– Development Adds
To San Diego’s Growth
“This new development is something they’ve been wanting to happen for a long time,” Carlson said. “CCDC certainly is encouraging the growth to meet the goal of making San Diego a 24-hour city.”
One project planned for the area near the baseball park, called Park Lofts, will bring 390 residential loft condominiums to the area. The Douglas Wilson Cos. of San Diego is developing it.
A decade ago, Douglas Wilson headed the company that built Symphony Towers at 750 B St.
Wilson said the location of his newest project, on the south side of Island Avenue between Eighth and Ninth avenues, filled a niche in the Downtown housing market that wasn’t being met.
“Our location is unique in that it is within walking distance of both the Gaslamp Quarter Historic District and the new major league baseball park with its related hotel, office and retail development,” Wilson said.
The $125 million project is being designed by Shears & Leese Architects of Denver, Wilson said. San Diego-based KMA Architecture & Engineering is drafting the construction documents. He said he expects to break ground in the summer of this year.
– Some Units Expected
To Cost Nearly $1M
When the first phase of 156 units is completed in November 2001, prices for lofts in the 11-story building will start in the high $200,000s and range up to nearly $1 million, Wilson said.
“Residential lofts have been immensely successful in other cities,” Wilson said. “What makes our project unique in San Diego is that it is being designed and built as lofts from the ground up, rather than as a conversion of an existing structure.”
He said his project would attract buyers who want to live Downtown and like the high ceiling and open floor plan of a loft, but are not interested in living in a converted warehouse or retail building.
Across Downtown to the north, the landmark El Cortez Hotel at Seventh Avenue and Ash Street is undergoing conversion into luxury apartments. The J. Peter Block Cos. of San Diego own the property.
The hotel, now called the Apartments at Hotel El Cortez, is being converted into 85 luxury apartments ranging from studios to three-bedroom units, said Al Calvet, project manager for the building contractor, Ninteman Construction Co. Inc. of San Diego. Tanner Laddy Maytum Stacy Architects of San Francisco is the architectural firm overseeing the conversion project.
“We’re approximately 72 percent done with the project and we anticipate a completion by the end of May,” Calvet said.
– Two Large Projects
Complement El Cortez
Hall of the CCDC said there are two other big residential projects being built near the hotel.
One, The Discovery on Cortez Hill on the north side of Beech Street near Eighth Avenue, will have 210 condominiums in a 23-story high-rise due to be completed in late summer 2001, said Glenn Evans, project manager for Bolsa Development-California Inc., of Vancouver, British Columbia which is also acting as the general contractor on the project. Architect John Perkins, also of Vancouver, designed the project.
The other is The Heritage Apartments northeast of the hotel on Eighth Avenue and Beech Street. Forest City Residential West Inc. of Los Angeles has started construction on the two-block project that includes 230 apartments in several four-story structures designed by Togawa Smith Architects Inc. of Pasadena.
Dennis Serraglio, director of sales and marketing for Bolsa Development-California, said the prices for condominiums at Discovery on Cortez Hill would range from $195,000 for a one-bedroom unit up to $1.03 million for a penthouse.
Bolsa Development is also under way on Park Place, a 30-story condominium tower with 178 units on the northwest corner of Kettner Boulevard and Harbor Drive.
Prices there will start at $299,000 for a one-bedroom condominium with den and range up to $1.39 million for a two-level penthouse unit with two bedrooms, a den and three bathrooms, Serraglio said.
– Downtown Experience
Transfers To Area Projects
“We’re very experienced in building high-rise condos in other markets such as Vancouver, Calgary (Alberta) and Seattle,” said Eric Martin, vice president of Bolsa Development-California.
“So given our experience in those markets, particularly with downtown locations, we just saw some significant similarities between those situations and San Diego. Part of the reason for building in San Diego was a very livable and emerging central business district that was on the move.”
Another factor that influenced his company’s decision to develop in San Diego were environmental constraints on single-family housing in the county’s rural areas because of traffic congestion and air pollution, Martin said.
“When you look at the quality of life in Downtown, compared to most other cities in America, it ranks very high,” Martin said.
The large number of residential developments in Downtown is just part of the story. Tom Carter, chairman of Mandate, a citizens’ coalition supporting the ballpark, estimated private investors are committed to build residences, offices, hotels and retail commercial projects totaling $974.5 million in the 26-block ballpark district alone.
Other private developers are poised to unveil plans for additional commercial and residential projects that are expected to boost private development in the district to more than $1 billion, he said.
“We’re just ready to blossom into a true live-work urbanized, 24-hour community, which is good for the region as well as Downtown,” said Hall of CCDC.