San Diego Business Journal

It’s looking like the education component will make the first big impact in downtown San Diego’s long-discussed I.D.E.A. District — a mixed-use conversion of a rundown East Village neighborhood into what’s been envisioned as a lively hub for innovation, design, education and the arts.

Operators of Urban Discovery Academy, a public charter school serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade, recently broke ground on a $10.5 million facility at F and 14th streets, set for completion by next summer.

Academy board President MaeLin Levine, who is also among the school’s founders, said the 36,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to open the doors to its 463 students in September 2015.

The seven-year-old Urban Discovery Academy operated for much of the last six years out of rented space on Sixth Avenue, across from Balboa Park. Earlier this year, it relocated temporarily to a site on 45th Street, formerly used by San Diego State University, as it worked to secure its new location and necessary funding.

Operators said San Diego Community College District helped secure the East Village location, and Urban Discovery sold bonds in September to finance the construction cost. The project involves a combination of new construction and renovation of an older, unused building currently on the site.

When it opens, the academy will be operating a few blocks from the new downtown Central Library, which houses e3 Civic High School; around the corner from NewSchool of Architecture & Design; and just a few blocks from San Diego City College.

The new academy is adjacent to two ambitious — though currently slow-going — mixed-use projects in East Village, where developers are scouting tenants to fill out the other letters in the I.D.E.A. acronym, by making the neighborhood more attractive with residential, office, retail and public gathering spaces.

San Diego-based HP Investors LLC recently joined the group of developers planning the multiblock Makers Quarter, which also includes Lankford & Associates and Hensel Phelps and could entail investments by various entities totaling more than $900 million over several phases.

Also in East Village, Lowe Enterprises of Los Angeles is working with San Diego development firm IDEA Partners on IDEA1, occupying a full block and expected to total around $90 million at completion.

The city of San Diego is finalizing plans for the long-awaited East Village Green, a large public park that developers have said will play a big role in making the neighborhood welcoming for prospective new residents and businesses.

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Pivotal Chula Vista Project Completed: Chula Vista and port district leaders recently marked the completion of a $7.2 million extension and renovation of H Street in Chula Vista, deemed a crucial step toward making the bayfront of that South County community viable for long-sought commercial development.

Officials noted that the extension provides the first direct access from Interstate 5 to Chula Vista’s waterfront, where the city and Port of San Diego are laying the groundwork for an expected $1.5 billion to $2 billion in private development over the next 20 years. The anticipated projects include hotels, stores, restaurants and residential communities, spanning 535 acres.

Port officials have selected Houston-based RIDA Development Corp. to enter into negotiations to develop a destination resort and convention center. Port staff and RIDA will put together a negotiating agreement and return to port commissioners for review of the pact within the next 90 days.

In 2015, San Diego-based developer Pacifica Cos. is aiming to proceed with initial phases of construction on the first major waterfront project at Chula Vista — an 11-building residential condominium development that would eventually have up to 1,500 units in several phases.

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Balboa Park Tower Set for Reopening: It’s among the most iconic and historic components of San Diego’s Balboa Park, but for nearly 80 years the California Tower has been closed to the public. That’s expected to change starting on Jan. 1.

Officials of the San Diego Museum of Man said the museum has received permission from the city to proceed with plans to reopen the century-old, Spanish Colonial-style tower for visitor tours beginning in the new year, just ahead of Balboa Park’s 100th anniversary.

The nonprofit museum, which operates in the 1915-vintage California Building on El Prado that includes the tower, has launched a campaign to raise $3 million from public donors for a necessary remodeling and safety improvements, with $1 million of that total recently pledged by the Legler Benbough Foundation. Information is at CaliforniaTower.org.

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.