Article Via Ray Huard, The San Diego Business Journal
The long-anticipated redevelopment of San Diego’s Midway District has started with the selection of a team led by Brookfield Properties to take over the 48-acre site of the San Diego sports area.
Details on what the $2 billion Sports Arena project would look like under the proposal submitted by Brookfield Properties and ASM Global are hazy but will be worked out over the coming months in negotiations with city officials and meetings with community members.
Regardless of the details, redevelopment of the sports arena site has been called transformational and is expected to kick-start redevelopment of the overall Midway District.
Central to the plan is construction of more than 2,100 housing units, 590,000 square feet of retail space, five acres of parks and what Brookfield Properties calls an entertainment complex, although it’s unclear on whether that includes construction of a new sports area, renovation of the existing structure or something entirely different.
A city selection committee in August picked the partnership of Brookfield Properties and ASM Global over a rival proposal by a development group led by Toll Brothers Housing.
“The next steps are really engaging with the city and really engaging with the community,” said Zach Adams, vice president of development for Brookfield Properties.
“One of the biggest things we’re focused on is forming a community advisory board to make sure we’re connected to the community and for feedback,” Adams said. “This community group is going to shape the plan going forward.”
The goal is to form the community group “in the upcoming months if not weeks,” Adams said.
“We’re eager to jump in and get started right away,” Adams said. “We’re moving forward as expeditiously as possible.”
Brookfield has outlined what Adams described as “a core set of values that we call pillars” that would be the foundation of the redevelopment plan.
Essentially, they call for “a mix of uses that are active, that are lively, that create opportunities, that offer parks, that have places to shop and work and really to explore and that are centered around a modern state of the art entertainment center,” Adams said.
Implementing a plan
Brookfield Properties sees the Sports Arena as an iconic part of San Diego, Adams said, but he wouldn’t be pinned down on what would happen to it.
“What we’re focused on is a broad district,” Adams said.
The proposal is seen by many as a major step toward implementing a revised community plan that the city adopted for the Midway District in 2018. That plan called for dramatic increases in housing density and divided the area into a series of villages, one of which is the Sports Arena site.
“Kudos to the city for not sitting on this for 10 years, said Sherry Ryan, a professor of city planning and director of the School of Public Affairs at San Diego State University who worked on the community plan update.
The Sports Arena site has “so much potential that hasn’t been manifest,” Ryan said.
“What Brookfield is doing is how do we make this plan come to fruition,” said Ryan, who also is principal/owner of Chen Ryan Associates.
In addition to the $2 billion in one-time construction money, Brookfield Properties estimated that the project would produce an annual economic impact of $300 million for the region.
Brookfield also estimated it would provide 3,200 ongoing jobs. Annually, the project would generate $6.5 million in sales taxes, $5 million in lease payments to the city and $14 million in property taxes, according to Brookfield.
Brian Mooney, principal of Rick Engineering and chair of the Urban Land Institute of San Diego-Tijuana, said redevelopment of the Sports Arena property “will be the beginning of a huge change.”
“We have seen that arena continue to deteriorate. What was once a premier facility has fallen into disrepair then they did piecemeal development on the site,” Mooney said.
Refining what the redevelopment project will look like and actually doing the work “is a multi-year process,” he said.
That will include “rethinking the sports facility,” Mooney said, and the project must incorporate connections to mass transit.
Dike Anyiwo, a policy analyst with the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce who lives in the Midway District, called the Sports Arena redevelopment “a catalytic project.”
Like Petco Park
“I look at the Midway area as one of those opportunities to really do it right, to set the kind of blueprint we need going forward,” Anyiwo said. “It really is for me the heart of new San Diego.”
Redevelopment of the Sports Arena site is “a world changer for that neighborhood,” said Matthew Boomhower, a member of the city Planning Commission and founder and president of Southern Cross Property Consultants.
“Redeveloping the Sports Arena is going to be the same kind of anchor development that we saw with Petco Park,” Boomhower said.
Construction of the downtown baseball park prompted a renaissance and flurry of new development in East Village, and Boomhower said the same will likely happen in the Midway District.
If redevelopment of the Sports Arena site follows the same trajectory as Petco Park did, “I think you’d begin to see things happening in two to five years.” Boomhower said.
Lynn Reaser, chief economist of the Fermanian Business & Economic Institute at Point Loma Nazarene University, said that combined with other investment in the area, the project “could represent one of San Diego’s most important redevelopment efforts since Petco Park.”
“The area is positioned strategically to link downtown, Old Town, the bays, and the region’s beaches and that advantage could finally be leveraged with the planned mixed-use development,” Reaser said.
Like others, Reaser said eliminating a 30-foot height limit in the Midway District “will be one of the first steps to unlocking the full economic and fiscal benefits of the project and the redevelopment of the entire 1,300 acres of the Midway District.”
Adopted in 1972, the height limit was meant to protect views in coastal areas west of Interstate 5. If passed, a November ballot measure, Proposition E, would eliminate the height limit in the Midway District.
Gary London, a real estate consultant who was part of the Toll Brothers Housing team and lives in Point Loma, said that the Midway District is “a candidate for the worst planned, most convoluted community in San Diego.”
“A good part of the reason is the 30-foot height limit, which severely limits the capacity of any land owner-developer to develop their property in a feasible way,” said London, senor principal of London Moeder Advisors. “This area never should have been subject to the 30-foot height limit. It has nothing to do with the coast. It was an accident of being west of Interstate 5.”
Adams of Brookfield Properties wouldn’t say flat out that failure to eliminate the height limit would doom the project as others have suggested.
Rather, Adams said it “would compromise and really challenge what might be possible.”
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