San Diego Business Journal

Downtown San Diego has its iconic social and entertainment centers like the East Village and Gaslamp Quarter. But some business leaders would like the city to create an arts and entertainment district, emphasizing live outdoor festivals and performances, to tie those hubs together and get visitors to spend more time and money downtown.

San Diego City Council’s Land Use and Housing Committee is considering a proposed district that potentially could stretch from Ash Street to Broadway, and from Front Street to Eighth Avenue.

David Ehrlich, principal and founder of Denver-based consulting firm FinWater Advisors LLC, said the district is not meant to pull visitors from existing businesses, but instead enliven the overall area with events like art shows, live music and other types of performances. That in turn could make the downtown area more attractive to visitors and encourage more restaurants, retailers and other businesses to set up shop there in the long run.

The district would capitalize on a new public-square park being developed by the city and Westfield Group at Horton Plaza, but eventually extend north of Broadway. It would be marked by special lighting, signs, multimedia and other elements aimed at creating a welcoming environment.

“It’s about connecting together some of these elements that are already there, and giving people more reasons to spend time in the downtown area,” said Ehrlich, who is also executive director of the Denver Theatre District.

Local proponents hope to emulate Denver’s district, which has been credited with bringing new economic life to that city’s downtown since it was formed five years ago.

Ehrlich said he has been discussing a San Diego district for the past four years with several local business leaders backing the idea, led by Jeff Marston, president of local public relations firm Marston + Marston Inc.

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Grantville Housing Development Stirs Debate: The San Diego Planning Commission has approved a development that would bring more than 1,000 apartments and houses to the Grantville neighborhood. But it will hardly be a slam-dunk when it makes its next stop before City Council.

The project known as Riverbend would be located at 6910-6980 Mission Gorge Road, at Old Cliffs Road within the city’s Navajo Community Plan. The advisory Navajo community planning group has voted against the project and several residents are opposed, largely because of concerns about traffic congestion.

wDeveloper Shawnee LLC is looking to build on a 22.8-acre site located east of the San Diego River, and locally based Urban Housing Partners Inc. is serving as the project’s development manager. Sherman Harmer Jr., Urban Housing’s president, recently told the community planning group that the project would spur economic revival in Grantville and give residents direct and walkable access to the river area.

Developers want to replace an old industrial site with up to 996 multifamily and 27 single-family dwellings, along with a park and other open-space elements.

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Luxury Apartments Completed at Spectrum: Developer Wood Partners LLC of Atlanta recently completed construction of Domain by Alta, its $90 million luxury apartment community in San Diego’s Spectrum Center development in Kearny Mesa.

Officials said in a statement that the complex, with a total of 414 units, was 30 percent leased as of early August.

“Market conditions are certainly better now than when we bought the property and started construction – and we were optimistic even then because of the strategic location of this property,” said Brian Hansen, a Wood Partners director who oversees the company’s developments in Southern California.

Domain by Alta is in the master-planned, 244-acre Spectrum business and residential community, at 8795 Lightwave Ave.

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Hotel La Jolla Completes $4 Million Makeover: Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants has completed a $4 million renovation and relaunched the 110-room Hotel La Jolla, one of three hotels the San Francisco-based company operates in the San Diego region.

Operators said public spaces have been redesigned as part of the makeover.

The property, at 7955 La Jolla Shores Drive, is owned by Westport Capital Partners LLC of Connecticut and locally based Cove Equity Group LLC. The redesign was conceptualized by Gulla Jonsdottir, whose past projects include the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel; and Claude-Anthony Marengo of Marengo Morton Architects in La Jolla.

Kimpton also operates Hotel Solamar and Hotel Palomar in downtown San Diego.

Send commercial real estate and development news of general local interest to Lou Hirsh via email at lhirsh@sdbj.com. He can be reached at 858-277-8904.