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Search Underway for Chula Vista Waterfront Hotel Developer

Port and city planners are embarking on the next step toward long-discussed development of Chula Vista’s waterfront — entailing up to $2 billion in projects over the next 20 years — as officials formally seek developers for a convention-oriented resort hotel to anchor the 535-acre site.

By month’s end, port officials will send out a request for qualifications, marking the start of a national and global search for developers able to meet the project’s construction, design, finance and sustainability requirements.

“We’re looking to get as wide a reach as possible,” said Tanya Castaneda, spokeswoman for the Port of San Diego, which is overseeing long-term development plans for the bay-front with the city of Chula Vista.

After receiving responses to its qualifications query, officials will narrow the list with the help of brokerage company JLL, which is providing advisory services. Officials will decide which developers will receive requests to submit formal proposals for a centerpiece convention hotel that would occupy a 36-acre portion of the waterfront.

Requests for proposals could go out in early 2015, Castaneda said.

Coastal Commission Hurdle Cleared

While local officials have given informal tours of the site, the latest moves mark the first formal approach made by officials to the development community since Nashville-based Gaylord Entertainment walked away in 2008 from plans to build a $1 billion hotel and convention center on the Chula Vista waterfront.

At the time it dropped the project, Gaylord cited issues including prolonged planning and approval processes, legal and regulatory complications, infrastructure costs and the general state of the national economy.

Local officials said hurdles have since been cleared, including the crucial 2012 approval of long-term waterfront plans by the California Coastal Commission.

Plans include a total of up to three hotels with about 2,850 rooms, with 220,000 square feet of commercial recreation and marine-related facilities, 100,000 square feet of restaurants, 245,000 square feet of retail, and 415,000 square feet of meeting and conference center space.

Also in the works are more than 200 acres of parks and other open-space areas.

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

Work is nearing completion on a $7.2 million extension and renovation of

H Street in Chula Vista, expected to provide the first direct access from Interstate 5 to the city’s waterfront and deemed by officials a key step toward enhancing the area’s commercial prospects.

City and port officials have projected that at full build-out, private developers will have invested $1.5 billion to $2 billion in waterfront projects. Developments are expected to generate about 7,000 construction jobs and 2,000 permanent jobs, and generate $1.3 billion in new tax revenue over 20 years.

South Bay Ripe for New Hotel Rooms

Port and city officials will be seeking proposals from developers to build a large hotel — with its own conference center and 1,500 to 2,000 guest rooms — that would serve as the commercial centerpiece of future bayfront development.

Officials said economic conditions are now ripe for development of new hotels in the South Bay area. A recent report by consulting firm Tourism Economics, conducted for the San Diego Tourism Authority, estimated that the local region’s overnight visitor volume will increase by 1.8 percent annually during the next four years.

Consultants projected that hotel room demand will rise more than 2 percent annually over that period, with room supply increasing at a lower rate. Tightening room inventory is expected to raise average daily rates by an average of 3.9 percent annually, with revenue per available room rising 4 to 6 percent annually.

Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox said the improving U.S. economy, combined with continued growth in local tourism, make it likely that the first hotel elements of the Chula Vista bay front project will attract strong interest from the development community.

“Chula Vista and the port have cleared the way to create a shovel-ready project on prime bayfront property,” Cox said.

Officials note that the Chula Vista location is the last large waterfront site still available in Southern California for commercial development.

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