River Park breaks ground, signaling next phase in development of SDSU Mission Valley
San Diego State University (SDSU) officials broke ground on the 34-acre River Park in Mission Valley on Wednesday.
The park is designed to serve recreational needs in the area, creating a connection to the rest of the San Diego River Park, and to fulfill a promise to complete the park project.
The River Park is the second major building initiative on the Mission Valley site.
Construction of the school’s new sports stadium has dominated the Mission Valley site’s development to date and university officials say that the structure is on track completion just in time for the first home game in September.
“The River Park has been a long held vision for the region,” said Adela de la Torre, San Diego State University’s president. “This green space and the environmental benefit it will bring is essential to our vision for the future.”
SDSU bought the 135-acre parcel from the city, which used to be home to Qualcomm Stadium and a very large parking lot, after a successful ballot initiative in 2018.
Artistic renderings show large swathes of grass that can serve as sports fields, bike and walking paths along the San Diego River, and recreation facilities like basketball courts under the trolley platform that cuts across the site.
One highlight is the gateway park that will greet visitors that arrive at the site at the already existing trolley station. School officials say the park is part of the SDSU Mission Valley project, but it will be open to the public.
“They can experience a beautiful community space,” said Gina Jacobs, the associate vice president of Mission Valley Development at SDSU. “There will be lots of recreational fields (and) three full-sized recreational fields right in this area (near the trolley station).”
The complete SDSU west project will include research facilities, housing, and businesses.
“This was a big parking lot before,” said Todd Gloria, San Diego Mayor. “And I want you to think about the number of times that we’ve reclaimed property from parking lots and turned it back to people in recent months and years.”
He cited the San Diego County waterfront park, Date Street Plaza in Little Italy and the Plaza de Panama in the middle of Balboa Park as other projects that have reclaimed parking lots.
The River Park is part of 80 acres of planned open space and it will serve more than just an aesthetic function.
The park was designed to help control flooding along the San Diego River and the site will include habitat that promotes native species.
The park is also considered a key part of a long-running plan to create a trail along the San Diego River, from the ocean to the mountains.
“It’s nearly a mile long of a 52-mile long vision. Imagine that. I’ve been working on this for more than 20 years.” said Rob Hutsel, president and CEO of the San Diego River Park Foundation
SDSU officials hope to complete the project by the end of 2023.
The school is spending more than $35 million to build the River Park as part of the more than $3 billion SDSU Mission Valley redevelopment project.