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Downtown San Diego: on the rise

Posted: February 6th, 2015 | Columnists, Downtown Partnership News, Featured | No Comments

By Kris Michell | Downtown Partnership News

Want to know a quick way to gauge the economic health of our Downtown? Just look to the sky and count the cranes.

Not the birds, of course, but the construction cranes.

Downtown currently has more than a half dozen cranes dotting our skyline, with many more on the way.

Kris Michell

Kris Michell, President and CEO of SDDP

Whether it be the new Pendry Hotel in the Gaslamp, Pinnacle Towers in East Village, or the Sempra Building near Petco Park or the Lane Field North Hotel project near the waterfront, it is clear that Downtown San Diego is once again on the rise.

Consider this: Between 2010 and 2013, Downtown added just around 1,200 apartments, 72,000 square feet of retail space and no office space, no condos and no hotel rooms.

Want an even starker contrast? In 2011, nothing was built in Downtown. No apartments, no new hotels, no new office or retail. Nothing. Nada. Zippo.

Flash forward to today, and it is a far different and brighter picture.

As of last July, there were already 1,540 apartments under construction, 77,000 square feet of retail, 280,000 square feet of new office space and 854 hotel rooms.

According to Civic San Diego, which oversees development in our Downtown, there were also another 29 projects pending construction, including 1,682 condos and 3,279 apartments.

Also in the pipeline is another 397,000 square feet of retail and more than 2.3 million square feet of office space, as well as close to 3,400 hotel rooms. (Of course, it is important to note that not all approved projects will necessarily come to fruition.)

Some have even said Downtown San Diego is poised for a veritable “tsunami” of development.

No doubt these developments are good news for our Downtown and for our region but they also signal a sea change in how San Diego must grow and evolve.

According to the San Diego Regional Association of Governments (SANDAG), our region will add more than one million people to our region by 2050. To accommodate that growth, we must add 500,000 jobs and build 400,000 housing units.

The simple fact is that San Diego County no longer has the large land tracts available for development, as was the case in the past. We can no longer grow out —we must grow up. The fact of the matter is that Downtown is one neighborhood that is happy to accept the needed density to accommodate that growth.

But population growth is only part of the story when it comes to Downtown’s new boom.

Downtown San Diego is also seeing this influx of investment because America and, in fact, the world, is in the midst of an urban renaissance and renewal that is remaking our economy and our neighborhoods.

Increasingly, people of all ages — from millennials to baby boomers — are flocking to urban centers like Downtown San Diego in search of a quality place that offers the ability to live, work and play in a vibrant and diverse community.

According to the U.S. Census, 2011 was the first time in more than 100 years that urban population growth surpassed suburban population growth, and researchers say that data point is no anomaly.

Developers of all types are well aware of these trends and so they are looking for places to invest — places that understand this cultural shift and are willing to create communities that offer opportunities for fulfilling work places and enriching life experiences.

The good news is that Downtown San Diego is making a name for itself as the kind of urban neighborhood that more and more people want to be a part of; whether it be our emerging innovation economy, our increasingly rich arts and cultural scene or our efforts to reimagine and activate our public spaces using the tenets of tactical urbanism, Downtown San Diego is not only ready to embrace these new developments but also to enhance them. Add to that our location on one of the world’s most beautiful waterfronts and it is clear that Downtown San Diego is uniquely positioned to capitalize on this wave of investment.

We at the Downtown San Diego Partnership look forward to working with everyone in the community to help usher in this new era of prosperity and promise for our Downtown and for the San Diego region.

Downtown truly is on the rise and its success will lift the entire San Diego region along with it.

—Kris Michell is the president and CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership, the organization that oversees the Clean & Safe program and also works toward creating a world-class Downtown. For questions or comments, email info@downtownsandiego.org.

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