San Diego Planners Pave Way for Commercial Expansion of Cross-Border Air Terminal

New Hotel, Retail, Parking Facilities Planned at Bridge Complex Linking to Tijuana Airport

By Lou Hirsh CoStar News May 14, 2021 | 2:08 P.M.

The San Diego Planning Commission approved site revisions expected to clear the way for new hotel, retail and parking facilities near the Cross Border Xpress, a privately owned terminal connecting ticketed passengers on the U.S. side to Mexico’s Tijuana International Airport.

Planners voted 7-0 to approve traffic flow changes, including shifting some streets on the 64-acre development site to one-way traffic and converting some public roadways to private streets in areas currently occupied only by terminal operations. The final approval is subject to San Diego City Council approval at an upcoming meeting.

The City Council previously approved a larger general two-phase expansion plan that eventually calls for surface parking spaces at the Otay Mesa facility to be replaced by new elements to serve an expected rise in cross-border travel demand.

Filings with the city show those plans include a four-level parking structure with more than 2,200 spaces, 340 hotel rooms, 34,000 square feet of retail shops, 6,000 square feet of restaurants, and a 12-pump gas station and convenience market. Those could later be followed by up to 402,000 square feet of industrial uses by outside developers through arrangements with terminal operators.

“This project represents a substantial binational private investment in public infrastructure and is an economic engine for the San Diego region that will only continue to grow,” Cross Border Xpress CEO Jorge Goytortua said during the planning commission’s May 13 meeting. Work on the new elements could begin before year’s end, officials said. Cross Border Xpress operators have not divulged expected costs for the coming expansion at the terminal and bridge facility, also known as CBX, which opened in 2015 and served 3 million passengers in 2019.

U.S. and Mexico air travel was significantly curtailed during the past year by the coronavirus pandemic but has picked up in recent weeks amid rising vaccinations, and Goytortua said the facility is projected to serve 7 million passengers by 2036.

City and CBX officials estimate the facility had an $855 million regional impact in San Diego and supported 7,600 jobs in 2019. The facility provides ticketed passengers from the United States with access to more than 30 Mexican destinations from Tijuana, along with others in Asia and South America not directly accessible from San Diego International Airport.

The facility at 2745 Otay Pacific Drive was built at a cost of $120 million by Otay Tijuana Venture LLC, a private cross-border partnership whose backers include Chicago-based Equity Group Investments, founded by billionaire Sam Zell. It is the first U.S. aviation facility to connect directly into a foreign airport terminal.


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