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Groundbreaking for Chula Vista’s billion-dollar bayfront project just weeks away

Resort and convention center are centerpiece of South Bay development

San Diego Union Tribune - Rendering of the Chula Vista Bayfront hotel and convention center. The project includes a public esplanade with benches, trails, pools, water access and food stands.

The groundbreaking for a long-awaited, billion-dollar resort hotel and convention center on Chula Vista’s bayfront is finally within sight after the approval of the development’s financing plan.

Port of San Diego commissioners and Chula Vista council members both unanimously voted last week to support an updated financial structure that lays out how the project will get funded and how much revenue it will generate.

The city expects to issue building permits, concurrent with the financing, sometime between Tuesday and May 26, according to city spokesperson Anne Steinberger. Developers could begin construction the day after closing.

“This project here, we’ve been waiting for it for literally decades,” said Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas. “It wasn’t an easy deal. It was pretty complex and it was a rollercoaster ride.”

Chula Vista and the Port have worked for years to transform more than 500 acres of vacant and industrial land into a residential and world-class waterfront destination. The vision is laid out in what’s known as the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan, which includes the Costa Vista RV resort that opened last year.

It also paved the way for the bayfront’s centerpiece: the Gaylord Pacific Resort and Convention Center. Approved in 2018, the $1.2 billion project uses private and public dollars to build a 1,600-room hotel, a 275,000-square-foot convention center and 1,600 parking spaces. Houston-based RIDA Development will build it. Last week, RIDA officials said construction is expected to last three years.

There were multiple hurdles over the decades in getting to where the bayfront project is now, but none were as challenging as recent years, said port Commissioner Anne Moore, who represents Chula Vista on the seven-member board.

“Nobody, I think, would have ever imagined that we would have to deal with the pandemic and a war and supply chain shortages and inflation,” she said.

Those global events trickled down to the bayfront development, increasing the project’s cost.

Under a previous financial plan, the port and city were set to pay $328 million in upfront public funds, which included $265 million in bond money toward the construction of the resort and $63 million for site infrastructure.

Cost increases, however, called for an additional $18 million. The port and city agreed to each contribute $9 million and provide a $1 million reimbursement to RIDA. This increased their total public investment to $284 million. Site infrastructure costs also jumped, by more than $20 million, for a sum of $85 million, which will be covered by sewer fees, a $25 million contribution from San Diego County and grants.

The Chula Vista Bayfront Facilities Financing Authority, made up of the port and the city, plans to fully repay the bond debt by June 2059.

As the first luxury resort in the South County city, Chula Vista and the port each anticipates receiving $151 million in revenue over the first 37 years of the project. Over time, each also expects to receive about $45 million in annual tax revenues. In Chula Vista, $45 million is roughly equivalent to what the city proposes to spend next year for multiple services, including parks, library, finance, animal care and the city attorney’s office, said Deputy City Manager Tiffany Allen.

The project is expected to create about 3,480 jobs during the construction phase and an estimated 3,900 permanent ones, she added.

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