Monday, August 30, 2010
A preliminary plan to transform Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama into a pedestrian mall was unveiled Monday. Returning the Plaza to it’s pedestrian-only roots has been part of the park master plan for more than 20 years.
SAN DIEGO A preliminary plan to transform Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama into a pedestrian mall was unveiled Monday. Returning the Plaza to it’s pedestrian-only roots has been part of the park master plan for more than 20 years.
The plan would remove the more than 70 parking spots in the Plaza and the traffic that circles the Plaza would be redirected to a new, two-story parking garage nearby.
Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs is spearheading an 11-member committee that will oversee the project. He described the plaza’s redesign as a legacy gift to future city residents.
“Shade trees, benches, open space," he said, listing some of the new Plaza's hoped-for features. "And, possibly, be able to take some of the sculptures that are currently in the sculpture garden for the Museum of Art and put some of those around the Plaza as well.”
San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price and City Councilman Todd Gloria joined Jacobs in unveiling the project design.
Gloria said the Plaza will become the cultural hub it was meant to be before cars took it over for good after World War II.
“Anyone who goes to Google Earth, you can see the Plaza from space is nothing but asphalt and cross walks, the roofs of cars," he said. "When this project is done, you will see satellite images that show gathering spaces, families, children congregating, pedestrians walking, treetops and, most importantly, open space.”
The committee lead by Jacobs will also raise funds to cover the project’s estimated $33 million construction costs. However, a bond that would be repaid with revenue from parking fees could also become part of the city’s plan to fund the project.
The first public meeting about the Plaza’s final design will be held Sept 23 at 6 p.m. in the Balboa Park Club.
Construction is slated to begin in 2012 and be finished in time for the Plaza’s 100-year anniversary celebration in 2015.