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69.1 F
San Diego
Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Mixed-Use West Project Includes $80M Tunnel

A $400 million downtown tower under construction on the site of what was once the San Diego County superior courthouse is part of a wave of projects scheduled to open downtown within the next two years.

At 37 stories and 445 feet tall, West, originally called Courthouse Commons, will combine office space, apartments and commercial space in what is an unusual mix for San Diego – but one that is likely to be repeated.

The overall project also includes an $80 million tunnel connecting the San Diego County Central Jail with the new courthouse. Construction of the tunnel, which is nearly finished, was part of the deal with San Diego County by which Holland acquired the West site.

Construction of the bulk of the West project is expected to be finished in early 2024, but leasing is already under way.

“We’re still about two years from completion but it’s never too early to start preleasing on the office side,” said Brent Schertzer, managing partner of Holland Partner Group. “The building is coming out of the ground and becoming more prominent.”

Big-City Feel

West is being built at 220 W. Broadway by Holland Partner Group based in Vancouver, Washington, and the Japanese company North America Sekisui House, whose U.S. headquarters are in Arlington, Virginia.

Carrier Johnson + Culture is the architect. Holland Construction is the general contractor, and Lowe is leading the office development side of the project.

“From an architectural standpoint, we’ve really tried to make some big moves with the building and create a prominent building in the context of downtown that has more of a big city feel to it,” Schertzer said.

Betsy Brennan, president and CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership, said that West “is really going to activate that portion of downtown in new ways.”

West is “a true mixed-use right near Broadway, right near the water in an area that traditionally has not had many residents,” Brennan said. “I’m really excited about West.”

Brennan said that West is among several notable projects downtown that are finishing up, starting construction or planned.

“There’s at least 10 construction cranes downtown right now,” Brennan said. “It represents life science, tech, residential – it represents the complete vibrancy and coming back of downtown San Diego.”

Kevin Mulhern, a senior vice president of the commercial real estate brokerage CBRE, said that “the downtown market has really bounced back nicely from where it was at the beginning of the pandemic.”

“Things were rugged down there for the first six months of the pandemic,” said Mulhern, who specializes in residential projects.

“It seems like we’re on the precipice of some real big things on the employment side,” Mulhern said. “One of the other things that continues to amaze me is we’re continuing to see more high rise residential built downtown and it’s not cheap to build.”

Calling 2022 “exciting times for downtown,” Mulhern added that “all of downtown is being impacted, not just the west side and Little Italy. Even East Village is doing much better. The path of progress in East Village is continuing to push east. It’s continuing to be built over naturally. Consequently, all of downtown is becoming a nicer environment to live in. All these new jobs are going to accelerate downtown in a positive way.”

Hospitality Approach

West is seen as one of the big job generators downtown that include the $275 million redevelopment of Horton Plaza by Stockdale Capital Partners, IQHQ’s $1.5 billion project along San Diego Bay, and the redevelopment of the former Thomas Jefferson School of Law campus by Phase 3 Real Estate Partners into an eight-story campus with more than 200,000 square feet of office space geared toward life science.

Added to the mix is a plan by the San Diego Symphony for a $125 million redevelopment of the Jacobs Music Center that will include the renovation of Copley Symphony Hall.

Derek Hulse, a managing director of the commercial real estate brokerage Cushman & Wakefield, said that “downtown is better positioned than ever” with new projects like West to attract companies looking to differentiate themselves as workers return to the office.

“There’s limited amounts of large block opportunities in central markets,” Hulse said. “Downtown has them.”

West will include 431 apartments, 41 of which will be designated for low-income renters.

It also will have about 270,000 square feet of office space, and about 19,000 square feet of commercial space.

The ground floor of the tower will include retail and commercial space with offices on the second through seventh floors and apartments above the office space.

The project also will include below ground parking.

To blend the residential portion of the project with the office side, the interior design is more like that of a hotel than a typical office or retail center, Shertzer said.

Marrying Residential and Office

“The team decided taking the hospitality approach to the design of those spaces would help to marry the residential and office so it doesn’t feel cold and sterile,” Schertzer said.

As part of that, special attention was paid to the lobby, with retail space opening up into the lobby “so the lobby won’t be a space you just pass through,” Schertzer said. “We’ve designed the lobby so that the retail on either side of the lobby could be opened up, it blurs the line between sort of the edge of the lobby space and the retail space.”

Separating the office space from the apartments above in the tower is a ninth-floor that has a variety of amenities that will be available to residential and office tenants, including flexible work areas, conference spaces and “significant outdoor space,” Schertzer said.

“This is one of the first projects where you have both office and residential and then the amenities that you would offer to residential tenants expanded to office tenants,” Schertzer said.

Tight Market

Office spaces within the building will be larger than is the norm for downtown, with some floor plates as large as 39,000 square feet.

“We’re really trying to expand the offering on the office side to help attract tenants that maybe didn’t have access to larger floorplates in the downtown market,” Schertzer said.

By starting to offer space for lease so early, Schertzer said West can take advantage of what he sees as “an upward trajectory” in the office market coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schertzer said West will appeal to office tenants who are being forced out of the La Jolla, UTC and nearby submarkets by the conversion of office space there to serve San Diego’s exploding life science market.

“There’s a lot of tightness in the market with the huge demand for life science space,” Schertzer said. “We’re optimistic that that will bode well for downtown and for newer spaces that are more current.”

Tony Russell, a managing director of the commercial real estate brokerage JLL, said that West is going out for leasing at this point “because we thought the timing was ideal to get in front of some of some of these larger users that are 12 to 24 months out” in needing new space.

“We’re looking to secure a large, multi-floor tenant prior to completion of construction. Once that happens, then we’ll look to smaller users in the building. Right now, we’re focused on a large anchor tenant,” Russell said.


JLL is handling the leasing of West.

 “Our commitment is we’re more focused on the traditional office uses that make up the majority of the downtown office market, adding that “there hasn’t been a brand new, iconic office tower built in downtown San Diego in a very, very long time,” Russell said.

“Downtown, if you look at the office (market), the majority of the buildings are older and they’re vertical” with no outdoor space.

By contrast, every floor on West has a balcony.

“It truly encompasses the San Diego lifestyle and embraces what companies and employees was when the go back to work and that’s a safe, healthy work environment where they have access to outdoor space,” Russell said. “The building as a whole is just going to have a great vibe to it because of the mixed use nature of it.”

Carrier Johnson + CULTURE

Founded: 1977

Design Principal: Gordon Carrier

Headquarters: Downtown San Diego

Business: Architectural/design firm

Number of Employees: 63


Contact: 619-239-2353

Notable: Carrier Johnson’ s clients include corporations, such as Sony, Gateway, BF Goodrich, Neutrogena, Ford Aerospace, Motorola, Hilton Hotels, Marriott International, San Diego State University, the state of California and the cities of San Diego and San Jose

Holland Partner Group

Founded: 2001

CEO: Clyde Holland

Headquarters: Vancouver, WA

Business: commercial real estate developer

Employees: 800


Contact: 562-285-5300

Notable: With California offices in Long Beach and Oakland, the company manages more than 16,800 apartments. 

An artist rendering of the mixed-use, 37-story West project coming to Downtown San Diego. Courtesy of Holland Partner Group  


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