San Diego Business Journal

Developers of a proposed hotel next to the San Diego Convention Center said they are awaiting an environmental impact report from the San Diego Unified Port District due to be released next month. If the site passes the review, Fifth Avenue Landing LLC will move ahead seeking government approval to build a 250-unit hotel on the four-acre site, said Perry Dealy, development manager for the project. He estimated the 450,000-square-foot hotel with retail, restaurant and meeting space would cost between $50 million and $60 million to build. It will be 20 stories tall with a four-story penthouse structure on top to accommodate the sail shape of the roof. Company officials have already talked with two lenders interested in financing the project, Dealy said. They're also contacting national hotel chains to lease the building.

"There are a lot of opportunities for financing when your project is valued around $50 million," Dealy said. "Our owners have the equity to proceed."

- An Experienced Hotel Designer

The proposed hotel's designer is C.W. Kim Architects & Planners of San Diego, which designed Emerald Plaza in Downtown during the late 1980s. The company also designed Loews Coronado Resort as well as the Marriott Hotel & Marina master plan and the first hotel tower at the Marriott, Kim said.

Kim's design calls for the hotel tower to be connected by a glass-covered bridge to a circular, two-story rotunda, which will serve as the hotel reception area with a second-floor restaurant. A 500-vehicle parking structure will be built nearby.

He added that concerns about view corridors from the east prompted him to design the hotel tower to be only 66 feet wide. It's 260 feet tall. Fifth Avenue Landing LLC is comprised of Art Engle, owner of Harbor Excursion, a water taxi service, and Ray Carpenter, owner of R.E. Staite Engineering, a marine construction engineering firm, Dealy said. The proposed hotel site is where R.E. Staite stored construction equipment until it moved to National City last year. There are 23 years remaining on the ground lease, he said. "The location of the hotel being right next to the Convention Center, we borrowed all of the important design elements and incorporated them into the hotel," Kim said of the proposed hotel with its sail-style architecture.

- EIR Due On Adjacent Hotel

Also due to be released with the environmental impact report on the Fifth Avenue Landing Hotel is one on a proposed 1,200-room hotel at the adjacent Campbell Shipyard site. Port District spokeswoman Diana Lucero said crews are working this month to remove contaminated soil from the Campbell Shipyard site. Manchester Resorts, which is trying to secure approximately $150 million in financing for an additional 750-room tower at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Marina on the north side of the Convention Center, is proposing to build the Campbell Shipyard hotel. Promoters of the nearby Padres ballpark have said the additional hotel rooms are necessary to serve the expanded Convention Center and provide transient occupancy tax revenues to pay for the baseball stadium bonds.

Kim said one unique element to the hotel project would be a water transit center from which ferries will transport passengers around San Diego Bay. He anticipated the hotel will be operational by early 2003 and estimated it would generate more than $1.75 million a year in transient occupancy tax.

- Taxes To Be A Limited Resource

San Diego City Councilman Byron Wear, who represents the neighborhood adjacent to the Convention Center, said that while he's enthusiastic about the proposed hotel, it alone wouldn't generate enough transient occupancy tax to pay off the bonds for the baseball stadium. The council's first choice for a hotel site is the Campbell Shipyard, he said. A location near the intersection of Park Boulevard and Harbor Drive is also under consideration for a hotel, he said. Wear said about 1,000 new hotel rooms need to be built in the neighborhood to serve the expanded Convention Center. "We like the design of the hotel, but are concerned about the amount of view it will block," said Carol Wallace, president and CEO of the San Diego Convention Center Corp. "We definitely need more hotel rooms here to support the Convention Center, so we are in support of more hotels."