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Councilmen Propose Urban Park In Place Of Downtown Building

— Two San Diego city councilmen urged their colleagues today to back a plan to raze a major building at Horton Plaza to make way for an urban park.

Kevin Faulconer, whose district includes downtown, and David Alvarez, who represents an area just south of downtown, both said the project would transform the area.

Faulconer said the result would be "a world-class open park and plaza" on the north side of the shopping center along Broadway, between Fourth Avenue and Broadway Circle.

As part of agreement with the city, Westfield Shopping Centers would book 200 events per year in the park for the next 25 years.

The building targeted for destruction currently houses a Sam Goody music store and the upscale clothier Abercrombie & Fitch, but is mostly unoccupied, said Jerry Engen, senior vice president of corporate development for Westfield Shopping Malls.

He said those businesses would be moved to other locations within the mall.

"It really becomes a front door for Horton Plaza," Engen said of the park, which could attract thousands of people to the mall.

A small plaza currently exists at the site, but is frequented far more often by the homeless than shoppers.

"The condition of the (current) park is a shame,'' said Russ Mitchell of the U.S. Grant Hotel, which is across the street. The city's landmark inn has lost meeting business because of the area's appearance, he said.

Faulconer said if the project is approved by the City Council on Tuesday, Westfield will tear down the building, and the Centre City Development Corp. will handle design work, followed by construction.

"If all goes according to plan, we can expect this plaza -- and this park -- to open on New Year's Eve -- Dec. 31, 2013," Faulconer said.

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