By DAVE FIDLIN | Downtown News
Horton Plaza’s metamorphosis from a traditional shopping mall to a mixed-use tech hub is slated to occur over the next year and a half, based on recently revealed details.
Los Angeles-based Stockdale Capital Partners has pitched the so-called Campus at Horton as a tech hub.
Representatives with the development company, which acquired Horton Plaza a year ago from longtime owner Westfield, have asserted the reimagined space will provide upward of 4,000 new jobs and bring with it $1.8 billion in revenue annually.
Questions of Horton Plaza’s future have been a common talking point in recent years as the development as a traditional mall has progressively shed retailers. It’s a scenario playing out at a number of U.S. malls — many, like Horton Plaza, built in the 1980s.
Betsy Brennan, CEO of Downtown San Diego Partnership (DSDP), is among the local leaders helping shape Horton Plaza’s next chapter. DSDP has been meeting routinely with Stockdale Capital Partners representatives.
In an interview with Downtown News, Brennan said she believes the new Campus at Horton space will play an important role in shaping the heart of the city, much as Horton Plaza did as a traditional shopping mall when the doors were first opened in 1985.
“The Campus at Horton will be a catalyst for growing San Diego’s innovation economy and enhancing the Downtown San Diego lifestyle,” Brennan said. “This project will be an important economic driver for Downtown San Diego.”
Representatives with Stockdale Capital Partners did not return multiple calls and emails for comment for this story. But public comment made at a recent City Council meeting gives a deeper view into the company’s visions for the redevelopment project.
While details of specific tenants are still pending, Dan Michaels, managing partner with Stockdale Capital Partners, did give the council a glimpse into the company’s timetable for the redevelopment.
“We’d like to deliver this by the end of next year,” Michaels told the City Council at a meeting May 20. Council members made an important vote in favor of the plans on that date for the redevelopment, giving Michaels and others within Stockdale Capital Partners the ability to move forward as the clock begins ticking.
Documents tied to the City Council’s vote state Stockdale Capital Partners will be revamping a portion of Horton Plaza specifically for the tech hub. Other office tenants outside the technology arena could also be brought into the fold.
“We have been waiting for several years for this opportunity,” Michaels told the City Council. “We have a window to do this. We have tenants that want to be here.”
The concept of a tech hub is not unheard of in San Diego. A similar development, for example, is in the works in North County.
From her vantage point, Brennan said she believes the Campus at Horton will be a great way of reinvigorating the mall and bringing a much-needed amenity to Downtown.
“We are seeing a progression towards creative office development as companies seek to tap into the local talent, resources and vibrant urban lifestyle unique to Downtown,” Brennan said. “The Campus at Horton provides an opportunity to provide the type of office space these companies are looking for to put roots here.”
While Horton Plaza is set to undergo a major overhaul, remnants of the mall’s purely retail days are slated to be incorporated into the development.
A number of current shops, including Jimbo’s …Naturally and Macy’s, are being incorporated into the revamped development, Michaels said.
The newly inked agreement between the city and Stockdale Capital Partners states 300,000 square feet of space needs to be designated for retail, down from 600,000 square feet at present.
But questions of the current retailers’ futures within the development have remained at the forefront in recent months. Michaels, however, denied any existing businesses would be getting kicked out.
“We fully intend to respect those leases,” Michaels told the City Council. “We have no intention of trying to get in the middle of them.”
A number of San Diego’s decision-makers have championed Stockdale Capital Partners’ plans for the Horton Plaza, including Council member Christopher Ward, whose 3rd District includes Downtown.
“This is definitely, literally a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do something pretty transformational for Downtown,” Ward said. “Markets change and needs change and land uses change.”
He added, “This takes a lot of vision and a lot of ingenuity.”
— Dave Fidlin is a freelance journalist with a special affinity for San Diego and its people. Contact him at email@example.com.