Housing Adds Diversity to Booming Downtown : Development: New emphasis on residences delights planners as center-city construction fever goes into the new decade unabated.


The striking transformation of downtown San Diego, where spindly construction cranes seem a permanent fixture on the skyline, shows no signs of abating in 1990 as several large-scale projects--from high-rise hotels to small-scale condominiums--are expected to break ground.

When combined with developments already under construction or scheduled to open this year, it is clear that downtown remains on fast-forward, in a boom cycle the upward spiral of which began in the mid-1980s.

This year’s construction comes with a new twist: housing, from tiny and inexpensive one-room shelters found in single-room occupancy hotels to sumptuous, multimillion-dollar penthouse condominiums perched on 41-story towers.


The emphasis on residential construction is a departure from high-rise office buildings that have dominated downtown development. That is not to say that the office market is dead downtown. On the contrary, several large buildings are under construction and more are in the planning stages.

But this year, the majority of new projects will be residential, a phenomenon that thrills downtown land-use planners.

For all of this year’s development activity, it promises to be merely a precursor to 1991. Barring a worldwide economic downturn, downtown construction next year is expected to be even more dramatic, with several apartment, condominium and office towers scheduled to break ground, according to both private real estate experts and government land-use planners.

“The key ingredients for a vital downtown are coming together,” said Kraig Kristofferson, an associate vice president of Coldwell Bank commercial real estate brokers who specializes in downtown office space. He cites the long-awaited opening of the new Convention Center, the emphasis on residential construction and construction of hotels as indicators of a vibrant downtown.

Although there are fears that the office market might be overbuilt, Kristofferson maintains otherwise, saying that there is room to expand and that office absorption rates are healthy enough to propel more construction. “Downtown is the strongest office market in all San Diego,” more so than Mission Valley or the Golden Triangle in La Jolla, he said.

It’s strong for offices but traditionally weak for housing, despite the push by city and redevelopment planners to make downtown an attractive residential market. That effort has included offering developers incentives such as government subsidies and low-interest loans.


Although such incentives are still needed in some cases, as with the construction of single-room-occupancy hotels that offer low-priced, bare-bones efficiency shelter, developers increasingly compete on the open market to build housing downtown as they would anywhere else.

In the last few years, as anti-growth sentiment in suburban parts of the city has led to continuous attempts to limit development in those areas, downtown proponents have jumped in, marketing center city as a place hungry for housing.

The premise behind this strategy is that what downtown needs more than anything else is people: middle-class folks who have a stake in its enhancement as a neighborhood. According to the theory, as the area becomes identified with a range of housing types and prices, it will become a magnet to even more people, leading to the real goal, the metamorphosis of a once-moribund urban core into one with a sense of vitality and life.

At least that’s how the city’s government planners see it.

“I think you could say that 1990 is the year of housing,” said Paul Desrochers, a top administrator with Centre City Development Corp., the agency in charge of downtown redevelopment. Of the about 40 major projects breaking ground, under construction or scheduled to open in 1990, almost half are housing projects, a plethora of plans encompassing single-room-occupancy hotels, artists’ lofts, apartments and both low-scale and massive condominium complexes.

And, for the first time, the city will see the construction of a “living-unit” project. The low-cost hybrid offers shelter that is larger than a room in a single-room-occupancy hotel but smaller than a studio apartment. The city has approved the project in an effort to increase affordable housing.

“We’ve worked hard to make downtown a good place to market residential projects,” said Larry Monserrate, a principal planner for the city of San Diego who specializes on downtown.

Monserrate, who works with the Centre City Planning Committee headed by Horton Plaza developer Ernie Hahn, said not only has the committee recommended enlarging the area downtown where housing can be accommodated, but it has also recommended giving developers construction bonuses, allowing them to build bigger projects if they are predominantly residential.

There are, however, holes in downtown’s glossy future. Aside from an economic downturn reverberating through the development industry, the major damper on continued housing construction downtown is the homeless and the transients, among them the mentally ill, whose presence is apt to repel fence-sitting downtown housing customers.

Although the building of single-room-occupancy hotels has helped provide shelter for some of those who have been able to find jobs, planners such as Desrochers say much more needs to be done.

But he acknowledges that his agency, as well as others have pressed so hard for bricks and mortar that serious, comprehensive solutions or alternatives to deal with the street population have been largely ignored.

The remedy has for the most part has been left to social agencies, from the Rescue Mission to the St. Vincent de Paul Joan Kroc Center for the Homeless, which are mainly concentrated in Centre City East.

One exception will be evident this year. Scheduled to break ground in the spring is the Neil Good Day Center for Homeless Men, an experiment in keeping homeless men off the streets by giving them someplace to go during the day, someplace where they can be safe, where they can take a shower and perhaps get a foothold on entering mainstream society.

The $705,000, 5,000-square-foot facility is being paid for by a combination of private funds, the San Diego Unified Port District, the county and the city. It will be located on a strip of California Department of Transportaion right of way on 17th Street, between J and K streets, at the Interstate 5-Imperial Avenue off-ramp.

Although the homeless day center and other single-room-occupancy hotels are slated for construction in 1990, the glitzy high-rises will fetch the most attention, primarily because they are too large to overlook.

Three major ones are scheduled to break ground near the waterfront.

One is One Harbor Drive, consisting of two slender towers, each 41 stories high, containing a total of 202 condominiums.

Built on a triangular tract across the railroad tracks from the new Convention Center, the towers will have units ranging from 1,119 square feet with one bedroom to 4,878-square-foot penthouses. They will also be the most expensive condominiums yet built downtown, with prices starting at $271,000 and running up to $2.5 million, according to Suzette Y. Gauvin, director of sales and marketing for the project and an employee of Stark Properties.

A long fly ball away across Harbor Drive, the long-awaited 40-story, 875-room Hyatt Regency is also scheduled to break ground. Developed by Doug Manchester’s Torrey Enterprises, the hotel and the huge adjoining 1,250-car garage will open two years after construction begins in April.

A short distance away, near Horton Plaza, the biggest of the three--Roger Morris Plaza--is scheduled to break ground in the third quarter of 1990.

The central feature of this complex, spread over a block and a half, is a 50-story tower. The development will have 750 hotel rooms, 150 apartments and an underground parking garage with 800 spaces.

Although not on the same scale as the big three, the expansion of Seaport Village is also scheduled to start this year, according to Roger Manfred, a partner and director of Seaport Village. He is also president and chief executive officer of the firm that is developing Roger Morris Plaza.

Officials and developers say construction downtown probably would be even greater this year if not for an underground plume of gasoline. The plume has delayed several residential projects while redevelopment officials try to find a long-term cleanup solution, an effort that has already consumed more than a year.

If a comprehensive plan to clean up the toxic waste and determine legal liability is arrived at soon, then two other high-rises will probably begin construction next year. One would be the 32-story, 368-unit Tyson Plaza apartment tower across G Street from Horton Plaza, and the other would be the Courtyard, a 40-story, 400-unit apartment high-rise on the next block bounded by G, Market and Front streets, and 1st Avenue.


These major projects downtown are scheduled to break ground, open or be built in 1990. Sources include the Centre City Development Corp., San Diego Planning Department and developers.

1. Pacific Galleria, on Pacific Coast Highway between Fir and Date streets. A mixed-use complex consisting of a 12-story, 214,000-square-foot office building and a nine-story, 207-room hotel. Appel Development Corp. Ground-breaking set for summer 1990.

2. Quality Suites Hotel, south of Date Street, between Union and Front streets. An 11-story, 197-room hotel with three levels of underground parking. Liu’s Property Inc. $8.5 million to $10 million. Ground-breaking tentatively set for late 1990.

3. Radisson Hotel, 1646 Front St. A 22-story, 337-room hotel with 280 parking spaces. Christopher Boomis, Concrete Dynamics and Serj Corp. $27.5 million. To open in March.

4. Pacific Scene condominiums, 9th Avenue and Cedar Street. A six-story, 80-unit condominium project. Pacific Scene Inc. Ground-breaking in 1990.

5. Harbor View, on Beech Street between India and Columbia streets. A six-story, 101-unit condominium project, with 4,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space and 201 underground parking spaces. $25 million. Guttman Construction Co. Ground-breaking in 1990.

6. New Superior Courts, at the former El Cortez Hotel Convention Center. The county will build nine new “temporary” civil Superior Courts. $3 million. Ground-breaking in 1990.

7. Parking Palace, at 6th Avenue and Ash Street. A six-story, 650-space parking garage with 15,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. Parking Palace Partners. $13 million. Ground-breaking in February.

8. Columbia Square, 1230 Columbia St. A 13-story, 140,000-square-foot office building with 5,000 square feet of retail space and 210 parking spaces. Koll Co. and Ace Parking Inc. $26 million. Under construction.

9. Marriott Suites, on the block bounded by B and A streets and 7th and 8th avenues. A 27-story, 264-room hotel that is part of the recently opened Symphony Towers office complex. Knightsbridge Associates. Total office-hotel cost $143.5 million. Opens this month.

10. Great American Plaza. A 33-story, 600,000-square-foot office tower and 15-story, 276-suite hotel on two blocks bounded by Broadway, Kettner Boulevard, B and India streets. Includes 1,000 parking spaces, a San Diego Trolley station and public plaza. Starboard Development Corp. and Great American Development Co. $200 million. Under construction. To open at the end of 1991.

11. Cabot, Cabot & Forbes. A 20-story, 344,000-square-foot office building on a block bounded by B, C, State and Columbia streets. Includes 688 parking spaces. Cabot, Cabot & Forbes. $75 million. Opened two weeks ago.

12. City Suites at Old Columbia Square, southwest corner of B and State streets, next to the B Street Cafe. A 17-story, 262-room hotel with 5,600 square feet of commercial space. Shapery Enterprises. Ground-breaking in late 1990.

13. One Courthouse Plaza, corner of C and State streets. A 12-story, 173,000-square-foot office building. Includes 160 parking spaces. Whitaker Investment Corp. $20 million. Ground-breaking in late 1990.

14. Emerald Shapery Center, 400 W. Broadway. A 30-story, 375,000-square-foot office building, plus the Pan Pacific Hotel, a 27-story, 435-room hotel. Includes underground parking for 427 vehicles. Shapery Enterprises and San Diego 109 Inc. $140 million. Under construction. Office to open in summer, 1990, and hotel in the winter.

15. Seabridge. A four-story, 387-unit apartment complex on 2 acres bounded by G and F streets, Pacific Coast Highway and the railroad tracks. Includes garage with 500 spaces. $25 million. Santa Fe Pacific Realty Corp. and JMB Realty. Ground-breaking set for mid-1990.

16. 7th on Kettner, 700 Kettner Blvd. A three-story, seven-unit row house with 14 parking spaces. $2 million. Urban Renaissance. To open in April.

17. Watermark, on G Street between India and Columbia streets. A four-story, 96-unit condominium complex with 180 parking spaces. $25 million. Odmark & Thelan. Under construction. To open in January, 1991.

18. The Paladion, 777 Front St. A three-story, 100,000-square-foot upscale retail center, between Horton Plaza and Meridian condominiums, that will feature stores such as Gucci, Tiffany’s, Alfred Dunhill of London and Ferragamo, as well as 300 underground parking spaces. Paladion Partners, including Walter Smyk and Steve Davis. $30 million. Ground-breaking in April.

19. Horton 4th Avenue. A five-story mixed-use project on a site between Horton Plaza garage and 4th Avenue. The complex will consist of 13,500 square feet of retail space topped by offices and 34 loft-style apartments. Oliver McMillan Inc. $8 million. Ground-breaking expected in February.

20. Lincoln Hotel/Montrose building, 4th Avenue between F and G streets. Renovation into ground-floor commercial space and eight loft-style apartments. Winner Circle Resorts. Construction to begin in 1990.

21. McGurck block building, 5th Avenue and Market Street. Renovation into 50 housing units for senior citizens with low and moderate incomes. Downtown Senior Center. Ground-breaking in 1990.

22. International Male, 741 F St., between 7th and 8th avenues. Renovation into 30,000 square feet of office space. International Male, a fashion mail-order business and a division of Brawn of California, will be primary tenant. Morris Slayen. $1 million. Under construction. To open in February.

23. La Fontaine, 914 F St. A nine-story, 341 unit apartment building with two levels of underground parking. Jackson & Associates. $26 million. Ground-breaking in February.

24. Peachtree Inn, 915 F St. A four-story, 300-unit single-room occupancy hotel with 75 parking spaces. Tom Hom Investment Corp. $6 million. Under construction. To be completed in July.

25. City Villas, 857 16th St. A five-story, 30-unit apartment complex with 38 underground parking spaces. Bruce Dammann/Ray L. Huffman Construction Inc. $2.4 million. Under construction. Opening in March.

26. City View, 847 17th St. A four-story, 122-unit apartment building with 188 underground parking spaces. Ray L. Huffman Construction Inc. $6.8 million. Under construction. Opening in March.

27. Seaport Village expansion. A 148,000-square-foot expansion of the former San Diego police headquarters on Market Street. It will include a multistory parking garage with more than 1,000 spaces, restaurants, shops and lagoon. San Diego Seaport Village Ltd. $50 million. Ground-breaking in 1990.

28. Hyatt Regency, between Harbor Drive and the bay. A 40-story, 875-room hotel with 1,250 parking spaces. Torrey Enterprises Inc. $130 million. Ground-breaking in April, with completion in 1992.

29. Bay Side Trolley. A $40-million expansion of the trolley’s route along the bayfront and looping into downtown. Under construction. To open in mid-summer.

30. Roger Morris Plaza. A 50-story tower and complex on 1 1/2 blocks bounded by Front and 1st streets, Market Street and the railroad tracks. The project will contain 150 apartments, 750 hotel rooms and 800 parking spaces. Roger Morris Hotel Plaza Ltd. $130 million. Ground-breaking in late summer, 1990.

31. Market Street Townhomes, on Market Street between 1st and 2nd avenues. A six-story, 40-unit condominium project with 40 parking spaces. Jonathan Segal with Rowhouse Inc. Ground-breaking in April.

32. Harbor Place Inn, 200 Island Ave. This four-story building will have the city’s first 197 “living units,” a cross between rooms in a single-room occupancy hotel and a studio apartment. 197 Partners Ltd. $7.4 million. Ground-breaking in February, with completion in early 1991.

33. Marina Court, 3rd Avenue and Market Street. A seven-story building consisting of 37 loft-style apartments, 3,700 square feet of retail space and 37 parking spaces. Mountain to Sea Development Inc. $3.5 million. Under construction.

34. J Street Inn, between J and Island streets. Four-story, 221-unit single-room occupancy hotel with 90 parking spaces. 197 Partners Ltd. $7 million. Under construction.

35. Chinese Regal Hotel, 455 3rd Ave. A four-story, 24-unit condominium project whose rooms will be used by the adjacent Horton Grand Hotel. Gaslamp Quarter Enterprises. $3.2 million. To open by mid-1990.

36. One Harbor Drive, 100 Harbor Drive. Two 41-story towers with 202 condominiums, 447 parking spaces and 40,200 square feet of retail space. $100 million. Harbor Drive Ventures. Ground-breaking in February, with completion in 1991.

37. Pioneer Warehouse, on K Street between 4th and 5th avenues. Conversion of historic six-story building into 85 artists’ lofts, plus ground-floor retail space. Pioneer Warehouse Partnership. $12 million. Ground-breaking this year.

38. Farmer’s Bazaar, corner of 7th Avenue and K Street. Rebuilding of the produce market, which burned in 1989. At 20,000 square feet, it will be larger than the old market. Tom Hom Investment Corp. $2 million. Under construction. To open in February.

39. Neil Good Day Center for Homeless Men. A 5,000-square-foot facility on 17th Street between J and K streets. The $705,000 building will provide showers, lockers, restrooms, laundry rooms, mail and message services, as well as a place for homeless men to stay during the day. The center will be operated by Episcopal Community Services. Ground-breaking in spring.