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Freedom Park Planned Next to Midway Museum

DEVELOPMENT: $65M Project Largest Veteran Park on West Coast

SAN DIEGO – Plans are proceeding for the $65 million Navy Pier Freedom Park project adjacent to the USS Midway Museum in downtown San Diego.

Overseen by RICK, formerly Rick Engineering, with the Port of San Diego and the Midway Museum, the project will turn an abandoned building and a surface parking lot into a memorial honoring those who have served in the military.

The 5.7-acre Freedom Park will be part of a 10-acre park that wraps around the Midway Museum to nearby veteran monuments, including the 25-foot-tall “Embracing Peace” statue modeled after a famous photograph that shows a sailor kissing a nurse in New York’s Times Square at the end of World War II.

With construction due to start in mid-2025, Freedom Park is scheduled to open in 2028.

Nick Dorner
Project Manager and Engineer of Record
RICK

“It will be the largest veterans-themed park on the West Coast,” said Nick Dorner, project manager and engineer of record for RICK.

The entrance will be marked with a 6-foot-tall Freedom Park sign and a Torrey pine tree, a type of tree found only in San Diego.

“Anybody who walks north to south along the embarcadero will pass this sign,” Dorner said.

Among the park’s most noticeable features will be a 100-foot-tall flagpole at the end of the pier with a 30-foot-by-60-foot flag.

The flagpole will be surrounded by a sculpture of anodized aluminum that will be lighted at night, highlighting “words of freedom” included in the sculpture, Dorner said.

“Lighting is going to be a big part throughout the whole park,” Dorner said. “All the elements are going to have strategic lighting placed throughout to make this look really cool at nighttime.”

A monument toward the east end of the new park in a grassy area to be designated the Parade Grounds will honor John William Finn, a Pearl Harbor veteran who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Finn, who died in a Chula Vista veterans home in 2010, manned a machine gun during the attack on Pearl Harbor despite being repeatedly wounded.

A 32-foot-wide walkway on the north side of the pier, called Footsteps to Freedom, will incorporate pavers with historical quotes and bronze footsteps telling the story behind the pier.

“It’s discovery after discovery,” said Anabell Cardenas-Viteri, landscape project manager.

Anabell Cardenas-Viteri
Landscape Project Manager
RICK

‘Structurally Complex’ Park Design

The original pier was built in 1928 and expanded in 1941 during World War II
“In some old historical photos, you’ll actually see battleships and other things along either side of the pier,” Dorner said. “They used to have gantry cranes that would load equipment onto the ships and take them out into the Pacific to fight in the war.”

The trail will lead to the northeast corner of the pier, ending at a memorial sculpture – the Family & Sacrifice Memorial – that will honor the families of those who served during times of war.

“The purpose of this was to not only honor the sailors who’ve gone out to war, but it’s also thinking of the families and what they’ve gone through saying goodbye to their loved ones,” Dorner said.

Dorner said that the pier has to be reinforced with structural concrete to support the added load of various elements that will be added as part of Freedom Park.

A removable railing will be installed along the edge of the pier. It must be removable in case ships need to use the pier during an emergency.

To the west of the promenade near the western edge, a raised football-shaped grassy area will have 360-degree views of the bayfront and environs, forming a park-within-the park with seating, and a native plant garden in planters.

Under California Coastal Commission requirements, Dorner said that “We have to maintain a clear view from one side to the other, all the way out to the bay.”

Dorner said that Freedom Park “is among California’s most structurally complex over-the-water parks.”

“In a typical park, engineers have unlimited space below ground to position water, sewer, electrical, communications and storm drain systems,” Dorner said. “At Freedom Park, we have minimal space to contain all the infrastructure.”
Landscaping is particularly challenging.

“All of the planting areas will be raised, and trees will be in large planter boxes to keep roots from disturbing the pier,” Cardenas-Viteri said. “Most of the plant material that we’re using has to be able to survive in three feet of soil in difficult conditions.”

A vacant former Navy building on the pier, known simply as Building 11, will be demolished, starting in August.

The building contains hazardous material and was in such a state that Dorner said it would have made a good setting for a horror movie.

“People who go in there, they need to have special equipment and all just to make sure they’re safe,” Dorner said. “They have to clean everything out that’s bad before they can bring the building down.”

Working with RICK on the project are Triton Engineers, BSE Engineers, Wimmer, Yamada and Caughey landscape architects, Gallagher and Associates of Virginia Beach, and Ninyo & Moore.

A bird’s eye rendering of Freedom Park. Rendering courtesy of RICK

RICK
FOUNDED: 1955
President and CEO: Kai Ramer
Business: engineering, planning, and design firm
Employees: 400+
Website: www.rickengineering.com
Contact: 619-291-0707
Notable: Rick Engineering has 11 offices in California, Arizona, Colorado and Nevada.

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