While work on the long-awaited, much-debated cruise ship terminal for the Broadway Pier gets under way with official wharf breaking scheduled for Aug. 4, a much grander and costlier terminal at the B Street Pier remains on the drawing boards.
The facility is intended to replace the tent now serving as the main arrival and departure point for the ever increasing number of ships calling on San Diego. Currently, the Broadway Pier is the auxiliary mooring for the ships when the B Street Pier is filled.
"Ultimately, we're going to need a new facility there," said Rita Vandergaw, marketing director for the San Diego Unified Port District. The estimate done several years ago for building a new 200,000-square-foot terminal on the B Street Pier was $80 million, she said.
Originally, the port planned to erect a temporary tent on Broadway Pier while seismic work on the B Street Pier was under way. But the original tent design was ruled out for security reasons. The port came back with a prefabricated building that Vandergaw described as "industrial." Community groups and politicians said the proposed design was unsightly and fell below the city's aesthetic standards.
So, architects re-did the plans, returning with a building that impressed a lot of folks, including the port's board, which approved the revised project in 2008.
In addition to seismic work required for the Broadway Pier project, the cost is $28 million.
"It cost a lot more than we would have liked," Vandergaw said. "But we were asked to do something worthy of this site."
The 52,500-square-foot structure for the B Street Pier, designed by Miami-based architectural firm Bermello Ajamil & Partners, is made of glass and steel with a jagged series of roof panels resembling the roof of the San Diego Convention Center.
The roof design is meant to evoke the unfurled sails of a ship.
"The city of San Diego wanted an iconic building and they got it," said Ed Plant, owner of San Diego Refrigerated Services, a nearby pier tenant.
From a list of 14 bidders, the port's board selected Jaynes Corp. of California for the project at a cost of $17.4 million, with the remaining expenses going to contract administration and testing; seismic upgrading; and public art.
Part of the money is coming from a $12 million loan from Carnival Cruise Lines, the port's year-round operator that led the charge for an improved terminal. The rest of the funds comes from the port. The city and its downtown redevelopment arm, the Centre City Development Corp., were asked to contribute but declined, citing financial difficulties, Vandergaw said.
Though the cost is higher than first estimated, the final result should be a nice addition to the waterfront, said Vandergaw.
The cruise ship industry has gained importance in recent years as more lines use San Diego as a stopover between Mexican ports and Alaska. Last year, the port reported 297 cruise ship calls with 991,551 passengers. That was way up from the prior year, when 181 cruise ships docked here with 552,912 passengers.
"This is the kind of business that complements our tourism industry here, and helps our maritime industry," Vandergaw said.