San Diego Business Journal

Developers have begun work on a new, $14.7 million public plaza adjacent to Westfield Horton Plaza in downtown San Diego, with the start of demolition on a building that once housed Robinsons-May and later Planet Hollywood.

City officials and representatives of Westfield Group were among those attending a public groundbreaking ceremony at Horton Plaza. Ceremonies concluded with contractors using grading equipment to remove the first chunks of concrete and exterior lattice elements from the building’s upper floors.

Demolition of the 130,000-square-foot building will continue over the next few months, as work proceeds on a new 1.5-acre urban plaza expected to open in early 2014.

Ceremony speakers included former mayor and California Gov. Pete Wilson, incoming Mayor Bob Filner and outgoing Mayor Jerry Sanders.

“This project will provide an economic boost to the surrounding area, continue the redevelopment that began four decades ago, and ensure that Horton Plaza Park remains an exciting part of San Diego’s bright future,” Sanders said.

Postcards and other items representing San Diego’s history were placed in a time capsule to be buried at the new plaza and unearthed in 50 years.

City council approved plans for the plaza last year. Plaza construction is expected to begin in April, and will include restoration of the existing historic Horton Plaza and its iconic fountain.

As part of the approval process, Westfield Group agreed to demolish the former Robinsons building, transfer ownership of the land to the city, and maintain the park for 25 years. Westfield will also be programming approximately 200 events annually for the new park, including concerts, festivals and holiday celebrations.

— Lou Hirsh