A newly discovered earthquake fault line combined with new market studies have led to big changes in the $1.2 billion redevelopment plans for Seaport Village along the downtown San Diego waterfront.
“We’ve squeezed more of the program onto a smaller footprint,” said Yehudi “Gaf” Gaffen, managing partner of 1HWY1, the developer chosen for the project by the Port of San Diego Board of Commissioners in November 2016.
“The big thing is a project like this evolves. This is the second iteration of the design. There will be a third and fourth at least,” Gaffen said. “As we test these concepts and the layouts, one thing for sure is it’s going to change.”
The 480-foot tower that is at the heart of the plan will be kept, but moved from the northwest corner of the 70-acre site to the southeast to avoid the fault line and make room for a 192,050 square-foot aquarium.
The aquarium is being developed in partnership with Scripps Institution of Oceanography and OdySea.
Underground utilities that can’t be moved also prompted some adjustments.
The revised plan is expected to go to the Board of Commissioners later this year.
“These are all ideas that we’re currently vetting,” Gaffen said.
Prototypes in the form of pop-up retail stores, restaurants and other examples of what will be included in the redeveloped Seaport Village should start showing up within the next year to find out what the public wants, Gaffen said.
At some point, a helium balloon will be launched to simulate what people will see from the observation tower, Gaffen said.
Tentative plans also call for a temporary television broadcasting station to be installed on-site — possibly inside a cargo container — to present updates as the redevelopment progresses.
The revised plans also call for a luxury, five-star/five-diamond hotel with 231 rooms and eight villas instead of a full-service 500 room hotel.
“We feel there’s a gap in the (hotel) market, which we’re investigating right now,” Gaffen said. “Right now, there’s no five-star/five-diamond hotels downtown, let alone on the waterfront.”
The revised plans kept a 350-room micro hotel, but enlarged it from 117,450 square feet to 130,937 square feet with rooms averaging 170 square feet of space.
The plans also retain a hostel, enlarged from 225 rooms with 475 beds to 237 rooms with 490 beds and moved to be next to the luxury hotel. The hostel would include a roof-top pool deck and restaurant.
A four-story learning center operated by Scripps would be enlarged from 65,150 square feet to 84,600 square feet.
“The vision is to create meaningful, authentic experiences that focus on ocean optimism-the idea that there are solutions to our planet’s greatest environmental challenges,” said Margaret Leinen, vice chancellor for marine sciences at the UC San Diego and director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Office space in the revised plan has been expanded from 20,000 square feet to 140,000 square feet on the recommendation of Scripps to accommodate what Gaffen called “blue-tech” firms.
These are working on “everything from robots to drones to aquaculture to biotech that are looking at algae and other organisms in the ocean,” Gaffen said.
“There are a lot of companies now focusing on the blue economy and looking for space closer to the water or on the water,” Gaffen said.
At the same time, the amount of retail space will shrink from the 388,625 square feet originally envisioned to 277,712 square feet as the result of market research by CBRE, a commercial real estate brokerage firm.
The existing Seaport Village has about 90,000 square feet of retail space, Gaffen said.
Initial plans called for two underground parking garages, but because of the earthquake fault line the revised plans call for parking to be provided in up to three garages beneath the hotels.
“Anytime you’re dealing with a project of this size and scope, it’s going to evolve over time as we learn more about the size and best uses,” Gaffen said.