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Planners Seek Help With Downtown’s Future

Planners Seek Help With Downtown’s Future

BY RENE’E BEASLEY JONES

Staff Writer

Luis Acosta likes Downtown San Diego.

Since 1996, Acosta has managed trendy Dobson’s Bar and Restaurant at 956 Broadway Circle. Compared to other large inner cities, San Diego is clean and green, he said.

Downtown revitalization is headed in the right direction, but he’s got a suggestion or two: add an art museum or cultural center and more high-rise buildings for office and living space.

The Centre City Development Corp. wants Acosta and others to speak out about Downtown’s future. The CCDC started a 20-month planning process to fine-tune the city’s future development, and public input remains crucial, agency officials said.

In 1992, CCDC officials created a 20-year community plan. Since then, Downtown’s residential numbers climbed by at least 5,000, developers started a $450 million ballpark for the Padres and redevelopment projects totaling $2.5 billion are expected during the next three to five years.

That $2.5 billion , a combination of public and private money , is expected to add more than 8,000 homes, 1 million square feet of commercial development and 4,000 hotel rooms, said Donna Alm, the CCDC vice president of marketing and communications.

“We have a very healthy Downtown today,” Alm said. “But it’s important that we analyze where we are today.”

While the 1992 plan enjoyed many successes, she said, it fell short of creating the number of new jobs and office spaces anticipated.

Gina Champion-Cain is president and CEO of American National Investments, a San Diego-based specialty real estate development company that focuses on urban redevelopment. Champion-Cain is also chairwoman of the Downtown San Diego Partnership, a business advocacy group.

The 1992 Centre City Community Plan offered achievable guidelines, she said, providing an environment for successful redevelopment projects.

“I really look forward to having this (new) plan create a thoughtful and balanced approach to ensure our inner city will be a 24-hour, live-work-play environment,” Champion-Cain said.

To accommodate Downtown’s projected growth, infrastructure , including transit, water, sewer, green space, energy and schools , needs more attention during the next 10 years, she said.

“And we have areas in the urban core that we want to make sure are protected for the use of high-rise dense office space. We don’t want to put a single-story grocery store on a site that can bear a 30-story building,” Champion-Cain said.

The CCDC has invested $410 million in public funds in Downtown since 1975, when the organization was founded. Alm said that money led to a subsequent $2.4 billion investment, mostly from private funds, during the same time.

City officials established the CCDC, a nonprofit corporation, to facilitate the process of redefining the 1,500-acre Downtown district. Increased property taxes from Downtown redevelopment fuel the organization’s projects.

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