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Port of San Diego, USS Midway Museum reveal plans for `Freedom Park' on pier

The USS Midway Museum sits in the San Diego Bay at North Harbor Drive near West E Street, April 22, 2015.
Milan Kovacevic
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The Port of San Diego and USS Midway Museum are moving forward on a plan to convert Navy Pier into a new public park on San Diego Bay's North Embarcadero to be called "Freedom Park," officials said Wednesday.

The Board of Port Commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding at its Tuesday meeting that includes the port's commitment of $11.7 million in federal stimulus funding received via the American Rescue Plan Act and the Midway's contribution of at least $30 million to the project.

"Our agreement with the USS Midway Museum is a major milestone in delivering an exciting new public park — and improving public access — on the North Embarcadero," said Dan Malcolm, chairman of the port board of commissioners. "In collaboration with the Midway as well as the California Coastal Commission, we will create a better experience for all who visit our San Diego Bay waterfront."

Plans call for the demolition of the headhouse — an old Navy warehouse — on the pier, completion of pile improvements and pier reinforcements, as well as construction of the park with amenities intended to reflect San Diego's military history, pedestrian walkways around and through the park, landscaping, benches, signage, restrooms and parking.

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According to the port and museum, the full cost is to be determined at a later date.

"We are very excited to be collaborating with the port of San Diego on the development of `Freedom Park' on Navy Pier that will create a beautiful public space on the downtown waterfront for San Diegans as well as visitors to America's finest city," said Mac McLaughlin, president and CEO of the USS Midway Museum.

With approval of the MOU, port staff will collaborate with the Midway and the California Coastal Commission on design details for the park on the approximately 5.7-acre pier. When the design is complete, the port will process a coastal development permit with the California Coastal Commission.

The port anticipates issuance of the permit in early 2024. Prior to the start of construction, the headhouse will be demolished and pier structural improvements will be completed. The current timeline for park opening is early 2029.

Corrected: April 14, 2022 at 9:55 AM PDT
Editor's note: The article has been updated to indicate the headhouse is an old Navy warehouse, not a marine terminal.