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Sounds of Silence End for House of Blues Project

One of Downtown San Diego’s newest entertainment venues , an on-again, off-again project for the past few years , appears to be preparing for a spring 2005 opening.

According to Jeff Zinner, a redevelopment project manager at the Centre City Development Corp., San Diego’s planning and redevelopment agency for Downtown, construction restarted at the House of Blues on the east side of Fifth Avenue between Broadway and C Street about a month ago.

Zinner said Hollywood-based House of Blues Entertainment Inc. plans to open the 29,000-square-foot venue with a capacity for 1,450 people in the spring.

The House of Blues is in the former Woolworth’s building, which is being incorporated into the Diegan Hotel, a project under development by Fifth Avenue Partners of San Diego and Orange counties. Its investors include a prominent Southern California family and Richie Sambora, guitarist for the rock band Bon Jovi, according to Fifth Avenue Partners principal Jim Trammell.

The fa & #231;ade of the former Jessop’s building is also part of the hotel. The projects designed by Tanner Hecht Architecture of San Diego occupy a 25,000-square-foot site.

The 21-story, 170-room Diegan Hotel will begin construction in January and open in the summer of 2006, according to Trammell. He said the project includes 24 condominiums on its top three floors, some of which will be operated as hotel rooms by their owners.

An operator has not yet been named for the Diegan Hotel, which will also have two “world-renowned” restaurants and a “world-renowned” nightclub in addition to the House of Blues, Trammell said.

He noted that the House of Blues is scheduled to open its doors in May. The venue will lease its space from the developer.

House of Blues Entertainment announced earlier this year that it completed a $110 million recapitalization effort, which allowed it to progress with new House of Blues venues.

“We’ve been strongly encouraging this because it’s a great project,” Zinner said. “It’s great in and of itself, but it’s also great in the context of that block.”


Neighboring Jobs

Several projects were completed in the last few years or are under construction in the immediate area: the San Diego Trust and Savings Building was converted into a Courtyard by Marriott at Sixth Avenue and Broadway more than four years ago; On Broadway opened two years ago in the former Walker Scott and Owl Drug buildings on Broadway between Fourth and Fifth avenues with 33 loft apartments over 62,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space; and the 12-story First National Bank building at Fifth Avenue and Broadway is being renovated as 84 condos over 16,000 square feet of retail space.

All told, the projects represent $100 million worth of investment, Zinner said.

“That used to be one of the worst blocks to walk through in Downtown because it had no activity,” he said. “It will create the desired effect of drawing activity from the Gaslamp to north of Broadway.”


Neighborly Welcome

Jimmy Parker, executive director of the Gaslamp Quarter Association, said Gaslamp businesses like to see venues like the House of Blues because of the people they draw to Downtown. Parker said people spending an evening in Downtown typically visit two or three establishments, at least one of which is usually in the Gaslamp Quarter.

The House of Blues is one block north of Broadway, which is the official northern boundary of the Gaslamp.

Since the project has been halted twice since the late 1990s, Parker said the Gaslamp Quarter Association will be excited to see it open next year. He said the association’s more than 400 members, including restaurants, nightclubs and retailers, are not worried about the added competition.

“With numbers like that, competition isn’t the question; it’s really about the fit (with other Downtown destinations),” Parker said. “We think the House of Blues would be a good fit in the Gaslamp, even if it’s a block away.”

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