Downtown’s future plaza touted as music and festival hotspot
By Logan Broyles | Downtown News
Glen Schmidt has made a name for himself over the past three decades as a landscape architect in southern California as well as an environmental champion. He is the founder of the Schmidt Design Group, one of the most successful landscape architecture firms in San Diego.
Responsible for several prominent landmarks dotting the county, such as Stone’s World Bistro & Beer Gardens in Escondido, Schmidt has been contacted for the development of Stone World Bistro’s newest location, a restaurant and small brewery that is being built in Liberty Station in Point Loma.
Now, Schmidt has set his sights on giving Downtown San Diego a vibrant, new social scene with several promising projects that will reshape the culture of the city over the next few years. One of these projects is the Horton Plaza Park, a potential game-changer for the music and festival scene in San Diego.
“We’re going to remove the old Robinson-May building where Sam Goody and Planet Hollywood are now and create a downtown plaza that will be kind of like a Times Square for San Diego,” Schmidt said with audible excitement. “It will be the first time that the city has had a large open space for civic events, so that’s going to be a huge change that is going to really transform Downtown.”
The Horton Plaza retail center, where the park will be located, is owned by the Westfield Corporation. As part of the company’s contract with the city, Westfield is obligated to organize at least two hundred civic events and community celebrations a year.
Ranging from concerts to music festivals, art exhibits, dance performances, extreme sports activities, holiday events and farmers markets—which are just some of the proposed activities—there will be no shortage of things to do around town once the plaza is built.
“The Horton Plaza Park project will improve the quality of life in our urban core and create a new and exciting civic open space for all San Diegans to enjoy,” said Schmidt. “Similar to Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland or Union Square in San Francisco, it will be a place for a huge variety of activities year-round that is sure to attract visitors from outside Downtown as well as local residents, workers and visitors.“
The Centre City Development Corporation (CCDC), on behalf of the City of San Diego Redevelopment Agency, is working with Westfield Corporation to make this project a reality.
“This is an important project for San Diego because it will rehabilitate this historic park and create some vital new urban open space in downtown,” said Mark Caro, a senior planner and landscape architect for the CCDC.
“Horton Plaza Park is one of the oldest parks in Downtown and in the past it served as a community gathering place,” Caro said. “The expansion of the park will add another 37,000 square feet, which we hope will once again make it the central gathering place for all of San Diego.”
Schmidt says the renovated park will also provide opportunities to modify the north side of the nearby retail center to expose it to more activities in the Gaslamp District.
Covering approximately one city block in Downtown, the brand new outdoor entertainment venue is expected to be finished in December 2013.
Additionally, the Schmidt Design Group recently finished plans to revive and renovate the Children’s Park and Civic Pond across from Downtown’s Convention Center.
Built in preparation for the 1996 Republican National Convention, the Children’s Park was originally designed more for artistic appeal than for recreational use. At the time, there were not as many residents living in the Downtown area as there are today.
“Demographics have changed and the demand for open space and more recreational opportunities for downtown residents have increased dramatically,” said Schmidt. “The intent of the renovation is to create a safer environment and reactivate the park with new amenities.”
Those amenities will include a large children’s play area with climbing structures, an interactive water area with jets, a concert lawn and food vendors with an informal outdoor dining area.