Ballpark Village project OKd

In The News, Architecture |

“Ten years after it opened, Petco Park would gain a 37-story, $250 million neighbor under a plan approved Wednesday by Civic San Diego.

The city agency that oversees downtown agreed unanimously to the project that could open in 2016-17 on the 3.5-acre parking lot east of the ballpark, bounded by Park Boulevard and 12th and Imperial avenues.

“It’s a very vital project, not only for East Village but for the entire downtown,” said CivicSD Chairwoman Cynthia Morgan.

The tower, as yet unnamed, would be the 410 feet high, equal to the two-tower Grande at Santa Fe Place project, which ranks 10th highest countywide. The tallest is the 500-foot One America Plaza office tower, which has 33 stories. The tallest residential tower is Electra at 466 feet and 43 stories.

Jim Chatfield, senior vice president of JMI Realty, said construction could start by end of the year and open about two years later; he estimated the cost at around $250 million. JMI is former Padres owner John Moores’ development company that master planned the district around the ballpark that opened in April 2004. Lennar Corp. is JMI’s development partner.

The project could be appealed to the city Planning Commission but not to the City Council.

Left uncertain is whether the proposed 688 housing units would all be apartments or include 323 condos in the 37-story tower. The 299 apartments would be located in six- and seven-story sections of the 1 million-square-foot project. Retail space would take up 55,357 square feet.

Caryl Iseman, a local real estate agent, urged Chatfield to commit to condos. She said she has several buyers including herself who would like to buy in the tower.

“We face a severe shortage of inventory in downtown San Diego,” she said.

Chatfield said he also favors condos, particularly since they would be more profitable for JMI and Lennar, but financing remains difficult for for-sale projects in light of the recent slowdown in sales and also because young professionals seem less interested in buying than renting.

“It’s come down to what we think is the market, what can be financeable and how we can be prepared for the future,” he said.

After the meeting, Chatfield said it’s possible the project could be announced as all-rental and then switched to include condos if market demand firms up. He and other speakers said they are waiting to see if Canadian developer Nat Bosa moves forward on a luxury condo highrise on Pacific Highway in the spring.

Another point of contention was the reduction in parking spaces planned. Earlier plans called for 1,175 spaces on three levels and now that’s been revised down to 942 on two levels — still higher than the downtown zoning ordinance requires.

Chatfield said the change was in response to potential financiers who thought a third underground level would not be popular with residents and argued that downtowners, especially the young, don’t drive as much as in the past.

Morgan, a former downtown resident, said she backs less parking in light of the increased use of car sharing and interest in mass transit, biking and walking.

The board also approved increased developer fees to fund downtown parks, fire stations and transportation improvements. Two members were outvoted in wanting to accommodate the building industry’s wish to delay implementation given the still-shaky development environment. But the majority did not want to give up a projected $16 million in fees because of the delay.

“Once the fees are deferred or assessed at a lower value, the opportunity to improve the quality of life is missed,” said Susan Riggs, who was attending her last meeting before resigning to take a job in Sacramento.

CivicSD President Jeff Graham also was attending his last meeting, since he is resigning to take a job with the Jones Lang LaSalle real estate company. Board members and the public commended Graham’s job in the face of the state-ordered demise of redevelopment programs. He touted CivicSD’s ability to form public-private partnerships to improve neighborhoods.

“I think the amount of work we could accomplish in the future from this organization is endless,” Graham said.”

Read article at UT San Diego