By DAVE SCHWAB | Downtown News
Plans to give Seaport Village a huge, distinctively San Diego “makeover” are still in play, though it’s taking longer than anticipated.
“A project of this size and nature doesn’t just happen — it evolves over time,” said Yehudi “Gaf” Gaffen, managing partner of Protea Waterfront Development, the team behind Seaport San Diego, a re-imagining of the 39-year-old, 90,000-square-foot Seaport Village waterfront shopping and dining complex.
“Our vision is to create a vibrant, experimental-based attraction near the water,” said Gaffen. “Our goal is for this to be a legacy project for more than just San Diego, that’s going to be transformational for the whole West Coast.”
Years in the making, the long-term Seaport Village redevelopment’s two major new attractions, an aquarium and an observational spire and platform, continue to anchor the project.
However, Gaffen noted there have been “enhancements” made to the overall project concept, which now includes construction of three, brand-new full-service hotels as well as a “new generation” student hostel. The hostel will have beds in shared rooms offering travelers less-expensive accommodations.
Another new feature of revitalizing Seaport Village will be the introduction of a “butterfly wonderland.” Gaffen said that project is based on an existing butterfly exhibition in Scottsdale, Arizona, which he described as “a magical, educational and entertaining experience for both kids and adults.”
Additionally, Gaffen noted the number of hotels in the project has now grown from three up to as many as six.
Meanwhile, the transition from old to new at Seaport Village continues. In October 2018, the Port of San Diego became the owner/landlord of Seaport Village, with Protea Property Management, Inc. (Protea) managing and operating the shopping and dining center for the Port.
“Working in close collaboration with our partners, the Port of San Diego is revitalizing and enhancing the experience at Seaport Village for residents, visitors and the businesses that operate within it,” said Garry Bonelli, San Diego Board of Port Commissioners chair. “Our goal is to create excitement and energy within Seaport Village, and also strengthen our relationships with our tenants while maximizing revenues for the public’s benefit.”
The port is presently revitalizing Seaport Village through a variety of new and established entertainment, shopping and dining options, along with site enhancements and operational improvements.
In February 2019, the board of Port Commissioners approved approximately $2.2 million in funding to implement various repairs, maintenance and site enhancements including:
A brand refresh complete with an updated logo and colors that have been, and will continue to be, incorporated into new signage and refreshed painting throughout the center, promotional material, etc.
New landscaping such as an urban beach and more native, drought-resistant plants.
New outdoor furniture that allows for flexibility in seating and uses of various spaces.
Seaport Village tenants that have opened their doors since the start of the refit include: Something Sweet confectionary, Introstem luxury skin-care products and Vino Stoppers novelty gift store and wine shop.
New Seaport tenants opening in 2020 include: Mike Hess Brewing with a beer tasting room and patio area and full-service restaurant; Mr. Moto Pizza; Spill the Beans specialty coffee and bagel shop; and San Pasqual Wine Tasting Room expansion.
There have, however, been some unanticipated “snags” encountered in the Seaport Village redo.
“Once we started undergrounding, we uncovered some pretty significant issues dealing with an active earthquake fault, as well as finding out that all utilities and electricity services, and every toilet in Coronado and North Island, flushes through our site,” said Gaffen. “So we had to go back to the drawing board to rethink the project which we then, in March of 2018, presented to the public for feedback.”
Noting he expects Seaport’s new re-imagining to be finalized conceptually by summer 2020, Gaffen added that a “very comprehensive environmental study will have to be completed before the project can move forward, expected by the end of summer next year.”
Of the revised project, Gaffen added, “Nothing has been subtracted. Enhancements have been added, such as the observation tower which will now incorporate a hotel in the base.”
Gaffen added the planned aquarium “has really become part of a blue campus integrating learning- and blue-tech innovation centers demonstrating the importance of the ocean in trying to correct climate change.”
Best case, said Gaffen, the Seaport Village redo “will break ground in 2024 with the project being completed in 2029.”
Gaffen concluded Seaport Village’s new look is going to have a new focus as well.
“Seaport Village has historically been more of a tourist destination, not really local,” he said. “We’re interested in creating a much more attractive place for locals. We want it to be a place where locals hang out. We want this to really be the jewel in the crown for Downtown San Diego.”
— Dave Schwab can be reached at email@example.com.