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San Diego's Navy Broadway Complex Still Not A Done Deal

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December 14, 2015 1:08 p.m.

San Diego's Navy Broadway Complex Still Not A Done Deal

GUEST:

Alison St John, reporter, KPBS News

Related Story: San Diego's Navy Broadway Complex Still Not A Done Deal

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Developers of the largest single construction project ever in downtown San Diego are ready to get started and they say they are set to begin demolition of the old Broadway Navy complex in March and the new Manchester Pacific Gateway development. The $1.3 billion project got the final approval from civic San Diego last week but a lawsuit is still pending against the plant and federal appeals court and that have been questions raised about whether adequate funding is in place. Joining me is KPBS North counter -- North County reporter Allison St. John.
Glad to be here.
We reached out to developer [ Indiscernible ] and environment -- lawyer Cory Briggs and they were not available to join us. Give us an idea of the scope of this project ago how large of a footprint will have and what will include?
We can talk about acreage, it's about 12 or 13 acres but I think the most important and to think about is just imagine when you go down to the [ Indiscernible ] and see San Diego Bay, that spot between the start of in -- start of India and Seaport Village is an absolutely classic and iconic spot for San Diego. Some people comment that it could be where the equivalent of Sydney Opera House is. It's a wonderful spot. And one which at the moment has a six or seven story high metal block of white buildings which is the head of the Navy region Southwest. And a bunch of parking lots. Potential sitting there on the waterfront and has the potential to really define San Diego to the world.
What does the Pacific gateway, what is it comprised of? What do the developers intend to build there?
It's going to be a mixture of hotels, retail, there will be office buildings, the Navy headquarters, a small 1.9 acre park and a museum. So it's 3,000,000 ft.² altogether and 1 million of that will be the office. The hotel takes up more of it than office and all the parking will be underground. So if you can imagine there will be big high-rises, huge high-rises and 27 stories high on the highest one. And they stepped down a little bit lower as you go south but it's going to be enormous development right there in San Diego's waterfront.
Remind us why this development project got underway in the first place. Why is the Navy allowing the lease and redevelopment of this property?
The Navy was given the property back in the 1920s. We all know San Diego is a military town in this is one of the manifestations of that fact echo is that the city gave land to the military so does have that small building, it appears small now which houses the headquarters and the rest of the land which is actually a bitter -- bigger part of the footprint is simply parking lots. If you see from the arts wasted space as far as economic development is concerned its federal and government parking lots. To the Navy decided they wanted to finance a new headquarters for themselves. By using the value of the land. And they leased the land, they held a competition and remember going seeing different golfers come up with ideas what they might be able to do to develop the land and provide the Navy with a new headquarters building in return. So the Navy would get a free headquarters and the developer would get a 19 year lease to build whatever they wanted. And people feel it should be more open space or more like Chicago's Park just a wonderful public space with fountains and public art but in order to be able to finance and Navy headquarters, any developer who takes at least is going to have to build a certain amount to early profits that he needs to provide the Navy with a free headquarters. So in 1992, they came up with the development agreement and that was under pressure because of the base closure and realignment commission was just about to say if you don't come up with a plan for this thing it's been sitting there since the 1920s and if you don't come up with a plan we're going to re-sign it in some way in the base closure process. So the Navy, that's what put the fire under the project and that's when they held this competition and got the developers to compete and in 2006, they find this lease with Manchester to develop it.
You've given us some kind of a mental image about what this project will look like and of course there are renderings on our website and multiple other places. It has been described by some as something of San Diego's Rockefeller Center with as you say these massive buildings and what are some of the comments about that that you heard. Is this something that will look like it belongs in San Diego do you think?
Here's the thing almost anything that goes there people are going to say it's better than what's the right now with parking lots and old buildings. This is the question, this is very bulky, solid looking and not particularly creative or contemporary architecture. Just straight old high-rises and I think some people are a bit disappointed there is not something more creative about the design. Notes being designed by world class architect [ Indiscernible ] and their San Diego chapter is the renderings we have given you so far is just the basics and we can add different color and different details to break that up. And that may be true but we see so many creative designs for development and eyesight pretty creative design that was in imagination of what could happen just south from there near the Seaport Village there. And that one immediately inspired unmount and that bash and amount of excitement with Nick saying design and this one is okay, six high-rises, Navy high-rise in a park in a museum but there's nothing terribly iconic about it. And it doesn't remind one of -- it does remind one of the Rockefeller Center in New York which is on the other side the country and it doesn't say much about San Diego.
Will block use?
It has been carefully designed to have Thruway so you will have views through it unlike the convention center which is like a solid mass. It will have roads through it in very big boulevards with shops on either side and there will be more used to the bay than there are now because right now the Navy has their buildings and the parking lot so you can't see the bay from behind it. I think it might actually improve access to the bay.
I'm speaking with KPBS is Allison and John and we're talking about the Manchester Pacific gateway which got its final approval from San Diego officials last week and there remains one obstacle however and it's an -- a lawsuit brought by Cory Briggs is still pending in appellate court and what is the basis of that lawsuit?
And that lawsuit is saying that San Diego should require a better architectural design for that area and this is not representative and we should not necessarily expect the Navy who was giving -- given it in the 1920s to do what they want with it but there should be's more civic uses that should have more creativity and be something that is more designed for San Diego as a whole rather than just something that is designed to pay for the Navy's free headquarters which is also on the site.
Is there not sums -- some security concerns being raised about the fact that this unsecure or looks like an unsecured high-rise will also have an house one of the major naval center in Southern California and perhaps be a potential target?
Some people have said that is definitely a concern. Some people are even, Congresswoman Susan Davis said when it be more appropriate to put the headquarters on 32nd St. or somewhere within the Navy boundaries and footprint.
The Navy says no we need to be out in the community and dealing with the community and we are dealing with contractors and we have developed enough security that there does not need to be any concerns about it but concerns do sometimes remain. That it could become a target as the Navy's headquarters for the Navy region Southwest.
You refer to and indeed one of the major reasons for this development is the revenue that it might generate. How much revenue to the developers feel and the Navy, how much revenue do they think this city might receive once the center is built and occupied and how much will it generate?
A report done by -- a couple of years ago suggested that it would put about $10 million in property tax and $8.5 million in DOT and $10 million in sales tax. That it would create 7400 jobs once it's done. It would be a huge economic engine and there's no doubt about that. That the city in some ways has been missing out on a huge amount of revenue because the site is just basically Navy parking lots at the moment. The bulk of it is parking lots. For the six or seven story high Navy headquarters sitting on the beautiful view overlooking the bay and it has been very much underutilized part of what one could say the crown jewel of San Diego's downtown.
As you've been telling us the environmental lawsuit is now in appellate court and we are waiting for that court to rule on whether or not this project should be able to go ahead. There are potentially other obstacles for the Pacific gateway construction to begin and that has to do with the financing for this project. This project has been sort of theoretical for a very long time and if construction is to begin within mere months from now are we hearing that perhaps the financing and the actual dollars may not be in place yet?
I think the economy is picking up and the thing is to be built in phases so for example, the parts that are to benefit the public the park, Museum don't appear to be in the first phase so the first phase will be the high-rises and offices, the restaurants. It's one of those things where I think the economy is picking up and I think that Manchester has not put a lot of emphasis on pushing through the lawsuit until now so you get the feeling that now he may have access to some funding at least to get started were in the past while the economy was down it was not going to pencil out for him. He's got a 19 -- 90 year lease and he's got a long time to make a profit of this and there's very little question that it will make a big profit for the developer. That's one of the issues when people wonder will be Navy get a free headquarters out of it how much will be developer make over the 99 year lease?
You mentioned Allison that this is a huge footprint on the bayfront of San Diego and you mentioned that a lot of people might think of this property as a jewel of San Diego and you also mentioned there are big plans further south for Seaport Village and so forth. How is San Diego's bayfront changing?
I think that's interesting because if you look a little bit further north you see the County administration building put in all of those fountains, there have been decades worth of people trying to plan the bayfront and it's taken San Diego to amount of time to get anything off the ground. The initial development of those fountains that started to become controversial because of the drought on the [ Indiscernible ] north of the plan and then the possibility of having something developed to the south there is beginning to become a reality. I think everybody is tired of waiting and San Diego's bayfront has been pretty much the same for decades and has such a wonderful aspect, and incredibly, it could become such a center for civic pride and at the moment we have [ Indiscernible ] Park but the bayfront is really a lot of potential sitting there which is not being realized.
And it's about to be. [ Laughter ]
It depends on whether the opposition manages to find other ways to appeal to higher courts. But it looks as though things are starting to move and presumably the developer has managed to find enough investors to go ahead. I would think that this would be a pretty prime spot for a lot of investors. They would really be anxious to be involved in something like this.
Developers say that demolition begins on March 1 and we shall see.
We shall see.
Alison St. John, reporter thank you so much.
[ Music ]
Still ahead we will meet the city of El Cajon's police chief. And that KPBS midday edition of the continues.