I have blogged about all the bad stuff - the pension crisis, the fact that San Diego hasn't been able to borrow money in the bond market for three years and, consequently, can't repair infrastructure or do much of anything else, the Strippergate scandal, the fact that the City has to go hat in hand to the CCDC to beg for money for the new library etc. etc. Now the good news: San Diego is going gangbusters in downtown redevelopment. Believe it or not, the city has veritably transformed itself from mainly a slum, particularly in the East Village neighborhood, to one gleaming high rise after another with streetside amenities such as broad sidewalks, trees, landscaping, the whole progresssive urban schmear. It's gone from last class to first class practically overnight. Gone are the sleazy liquor stores, square block parking lots, flophouses, funky tatoo parlors and radiator repair joints. Condomania reigns supreme with forward looking urban values such as setbacks and street level retail. Parking garages have replaced parking lots. Architectural values have replaced hastily thrown up buildings designed by nitwits. Funky tattoo parlors have been replaced by...not so funky tattoo parlors. After all you can't keep a thriving business down. There are cranes everywhere.
And who do we have to thank for all this? Not the mayor, not the elected officials, not the city councilmen, not the city employees. But the CCDC working in conjunction with private developers. The CCDC is a tight knit group of very sharp, very professional, urban planners, architects and financial experts who have been in charge of downtown redevelopment. Having been declared a redevelopment zone, the whole downtown is subject to being bought out and redeveloped. The CCDC acts as a go-between in securing real estate parcels and, if necessary, piecing them together to form parcels large enough to meet the demands of developers. They set limits for such things as the number of parking places that must be included in any project. They have the power of eminent domain which is only used as a last resort, and, to date, has not been used more than a couple of times if that. They oversee the developer's building plans and architectural design, and, if not up to snuff, send him back to the drawing board. They see to it that amenities such as parks are included in the overall scheme of things and that distinct neighborhoods retain their distinctiveness. There are six downtown neighborhoods: Little Italy, the Marina, Cortez Hill, Core Columbia, the Gaslamp and East Village.
There are so many projects either under construction or recently completed downtown that they are too numerous to mention, but here's a partial list: Horizons, Renaissance, Pinnacle, the Children's Museum, Discovery, Icon, Cortez Bleu, Treo, Aria, Aloft, Vantage Pointe, Bayside, the Grande, Sapphire Tower, Electra, Palermo, Fahrenheit, Metrome, the Mark, Pier, Aperture, Atmosphere. This gives you some idea of the scale and range of redevelopment within the fairly small and contained downtown limits. Of course, redevelopment on a major scale is going on in parts of the city other than downtown such as Hillcrest, North Park and Point Loma.
A good example of urban planning is smartcorner. Smartcorner consists of two buildings: a low rise office building on the right and a high rise residential tower on the left. The trolley runs between the buildings and will stop there when the project is completed. Retail will be street level. There is a spa on the roof of the residential building. Smartcorner is close to everything downtown, and one can just hop on and off the trolley to get to the ballpark, Gaslamp, Little Italy, Seaport Village or train station. It's walking distance to Balboa Park, but it would be nice if there were a trolley extension that went there. Smartcorner is adjacent to City College. A prime example of urban planning, smartcorner isn't cheap. The studios start at $267,000. That's for around 450 square feet. You do get a parking place with that though.
Here's a picture of Aloft under construction and one of the finished project. Right across the street bordering I-5 they're going to develop "Tweet Street Park," which will be a gathering place for all manner and assortment of birds. Fancy birdhouses have already been designed. I imagine it will be a favorite place for people walking their dogs as well. Cats might enjoy some birdwatching too. Any pleasant open space in an urban environment is greatly appreciated.
On the left is Discovery a project by Bosa Development. Nat Bosa is responsible for a lot of downtown development being one of the first to pave the way and hop on the bandwagon. Nat Bosa is a high school drop-out who started working in construction as a framer. His family moved from Italy to Vancouver, BC, and Nat saw the similarities between the two cities. After Vancouver had popped in terms of high rise condo construction, Bosa came to San Diego and started the same process. He's now responsible for six high rise towers in downtown including Horizons, Park Place, the Grande and Discovery with Electra, The Legend and Bayside under condtruction.
Below are a few other development related pictures:
California Free Press