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San Diego
Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Possible Military Closure May Help Developers


Downtown San Diego developers are now a step closer to bidding on a prime piece of bay-front real estate.

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission, charged with making recommendations to downsize the nation’s military operations in an effort to save the federal government money and increase efficiency, slated the 83-year-old Navy Broadway Complex at the North Embarcadero for closure or realignment on July 19. The Marine Corps Recruit Depot, while brought up as a candidate, was not added to the BRAC list.

BRAC Commission Chairman and Rancho Santa Fe resident Anthony J. Principi cautioned the Associated Press on Tuesday, after the vote, that being on the BRAC list “does not necessarily mean the base will be realigned or closed.”

It is the first step toward base closure, however, and, if the complex is realigned or closed, it creates an opportunity developers and the Navy have been working on for nearly 20 years.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there were combined public-private efforts toward developing portions of the Navy Broadway Complex for mixed naval and entrepreneurial use, though none materialized, stymied by oft-changing base commanders and, most recently, by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

A mixed-use effort could have yielded more than $100 million for the Navy and provided Downtown developers with bay-front development opportunities according to Julie Meier Wright, president and chief executive officer of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., which helps companies locate and expand here.

“The original plan (developed in 1992) was that, of the eight blocks occupied currently by the Navy, seven of them would be developed by private developers,” said Peter J. Hall, the president and chief executive officer of the Centre City Development Corp., a city-run nonprofit agency that coordinates Downtown redevelopment.

“Up to 3.2 million square feet of that property was designated for mixed-use development; from hotels to retail.”

One of the main objectives sought by proponents of mixed-use development was the retention of inland views to the water and, according to Hall, those won’t be threatened.

The plan formulated in 1992 stipulated clear zoning instructions to leave views and open spaces intact and, if the Navy complex closes, the developer winning the ensuing bid would have to abide by that plan.

The Next Step

The Navy Broadway Complex, which sits on land estimated to be worth from $100 million to $500 million, faces in-depth analysis by the Navy , financial, strategic and operational , before a decision is made on whether the base is to be realigned or closed.

“For the next four weeks, San Diego will be paying very close attention to the issues that come up with respect to the complex,” said Wright. “San Diego will continue to weigh in on the issues depending on what the answers to those issues are.”

Wright also said a long-term strategy for a future round of BRAC Commission closings is necessary for San Diego.

“There were bases that came too close to being on the list,” said Wright.

MCRD avoided being added to the list, perhaps by a technicality, she added.

BRAC commissioners were unable to gather enough information on MCRD to make a decision between now and August, when they make their vote on the base realignments and closures.

“The vote on MCRD (not being added to the BRAC’s list) may look like a ringing endorsement, but it was close,” said Wright.

The BRAC Commission has a Sept. 8 deadline to make its final recommendations on base closings and realignments to President Bush and Congress.

Tony Nufer, public information chairman for the San Diego Military Advisory Council, said the addition of the Navy Broadway Complex was unexpected to the local military and industrial community.

“We support the BRAC Commission process and we want to ensure that the requirements of the current tenant facilities and the total needs of the Navy are considered,” said Nufer.

Currently, the Navy Broadway Complex serves as the headquarters of the commander of Navy Region Southwest and hosts several other naval activities. If the complex were to be closed or realigned, said Nufer, all the activities and functions hosted there would “need to be provided within San Diego,” making the Naval Station San Diego, located on 32nd Street, a clear possibility for relocation of the complex’s activities.

Nufer added, “There are many interests involved with BRAC and developing the area intelligently would take into account the strategic location of San Diego,” and the significance of military bases within San Diego.

“(Relocating the facilities within San Diego) is beneficial to the Navy, to San Diego and to our country on the whole.”

Some 80 major and minor military facilities make defense the No. 2 industry in San Diego County. The San Diego region took in $13.6 billion in Defense Department procurement, salaries, pensions and benefits in 2002, the latest year for which figures are available, according to the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. San Diego County was home to 108,300 active-duty military personnel that year.


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