By DAVE FIDLIN | Downtown News
It won’t happen overnight, and there are still plenty of logistical questions, but the path toward turning a portion of the Gaslamp Quarter into a car-free, pedestrian-friendly promenade is underway.
In late 2019, representatives of the Gaslamp Quarter Association officially announced plans for the promenade project. Tentatively, the proposal calls for closing stretches of Fifth Avenue — from Broadway to L Street — to vehicular traffic and adding a number of new features, including public art and street furniture.
While the announcement officially bubbled to the surface last fall, Michael Trimble, executive director of the Gaslamp Quarter Association, said there had been talk of making changes to the layout of one of San Diego’s most visible neighborhoods.
“As a concept, it’s actually been kicked around for decades,” Trimble said in a recent interview with Downtown News. “Obviously this is a large project, and a very expensive project.”
Cost, actually, will be one of the sticking points. The transformation has been pegged at approximately $40 million, based on all of the plan components. Trimble and others involved with the preliminary planning have cited four possible funding sources: state and federal grants, corporate donations and private investment.
“There are complications. It’s not an easy task,” Trimble said of the various pieces of the puzzle that will need to come together for the project to see the light of day. “Working out the details will take time.”
The Gaslamp Quarter plans have drawn comparisons to other well-known sites with similar amenities, including the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. Trimble said several factors contributed to the formal unveiling of the plans at this point.
“Gaslamp is at a turning point right now,” Trimble said. “This is the front door to the city, and it gives visitors a first impression.”
With other well-established San Diego neighborhoods making tweaks, Trimble said the promenade also is a logical next step in giving Gaslamp Quarter a distinctive edge in the greater cityscape.
“There’s just a lot of options for people these days,” he said. “We want this to be a place where people can meet and enjoy life.”
Based on current estimates, Trimble said the actual groundbreaking of the targeted area of Fifth Avenue could still be three to five years off on the horizon.
In the meantime, the Gaslamp Quarter Association, which is helming the planning process, is working to gather feedback from Downtown residents, business owners and other people interested in weighing in on the project.
Since the project’s initial announcement, the association has been taking comments through an online form that can be accessed at gaslamp.org/promenade.
By his estimates, Trimble said the comments funneled into his office through the form have been “overwhelmingly positive,” with about 97% of respondents saying they favor the promenade plans.
The next step in the association’s formal feedback process is an informational meeting, set for 3 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11, at the Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter Hotel, 401 K St.
While there is still a bounty of questions at this early stage, Trimble said he is encouraged by the broad-level support from representatives of other closely aligned organizations, in addition to local election officials.
“Activating the Gaslamp and investing in a pedestrian-focused promenade will enhance the experience of visitors and provide exciting opportunities for people to gather,” City Council member Chris Ward said in a statement. His 3rd District representation on the City Council includes Gaslamp Quarter.
Joe Terzi, president and CEO of the San Diego Tourism Authority, also has gone on record in support of the plans.
“It will create a sense of community, and a place for social connections and entertainment,” Terzi said in a statement. “Its completion will represent a vital renaissance for the city — one that will serve the community as a place to gather and celebrate life in America’s Finest City.”
— Dave Fidlin is a freelance journalist with a special affinity for San Diego and its people. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.