The investment group that wants to redevelop the Mission Valley land where Qualcomm Stadium sits has big plans.
"We're starting with the largest parking lot west of the Mississippi and if we follow this plan within three years you will start to see construction on that," said FS Investors partner Nick Stone as he pointed at a new artist's rendering of the grand plan.
Stone was joined by former Qualcomm executive Steve Altman in a series of press briefings on Monday in La Jolla. The group outlined what it wants to do to the 166-acre plot of land where Qualcomm Stadium sits.
"We're trying to do something that makes sense for the community, a much more valuable asset for the City," said Stone.
In addition to a brand new stadium to house an MLS expansion team and the San Diego State football program and a 55-acre River Park, here is what their big picture development plan looks like:
- 3,520 market rate residential units
- 800 units of student-focused housing
- 480 residential units designed as affordable housing
- 2.4 million square feet of office space
- 740,000 square feet of commercial space
- 2 hotels with potential for 450 rooms
Stone says the park plan is something that meets almost all the criteria for the River Park Foundation and construction on it MUST be in at the same time they start to build the stadium. He also reiterated this entire proposal, which would cost an estimated $2.5 billion when it's all said and done, would be privately financed.
"We are not seeking a single dollar if tax payer subsidy," said Stone.
Part of that $2.5 billion dollar price tag includes $50 million to go towards traffic mitigation which Stone says is not just for what they want to build but also easing traffic flow in the area in general. It also will take care of destruction of Qualcomm Stadium.
The FS Investors-led group also touts the site’s public transit as a major positive. The current stadium site has a trolley stop and is scheduled to be part of the new Purple line that would connect Mission Valley to the South Bay.
“We are THE transit hub in Mission Valley corridor,” said Stone.
This is a unique opportunity for any land developer. Parcels of land like this, 166 acres with very little already on it, are hard to come by in major cities in today’s real estate world. There will very likely be other developers interested in the land that put of a fight for it. This investment group is prepared for the opposition.
“I think we're a rising tide that's going to lift a lot boats here. There will be people who view us as competition,” said Stone.
One of the main challenges from other developers could come in the way the land is acquired by the FS Investors group. On Monday they re-iterated they plan on leasing the full site on a land-use basis and buying less than 80 acres, in effect acting as a master developer for the entire plot of land.
The proposal was presented to City Hall and City Councilmembers on Monday.
"This concept offers exciting opportunities for major league soccer, more parkland and Aztecs football without public subsidy,” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer in a statement to NBC 7. “Now it's time to examine the plan in detail to make sure it makes sense for taxpayers. I look forward to reviewing the proposal presented to the public today, as well as the public discussion to come."
The proposal will be formed as a citizens’ initiative. Later this week they plan to launch a new website, www.goalsd.com, that will outline all of the technical data. Then 22 days after that, they plan to start gathering signatures (the same process the Chargers went through with Measure C).
If the group is able to collect enough signatures and have those signatures verified they will ask the City Council to make a decision on direct-adopting the proposal in June, hoping to avoid the delay of a public vote on the plan which would come in November, likely after Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber makes an announcement on which cities will receive expansion teams.
A citizens’ initiative does not require environmental impact information to be included but Stone says the group will include “thousands of pages” of documents similar to what would be found in an Environmental Impact Report will be included anyway. Since the land is older and mostly a parking lot the group does not foresee many environmental obstacles.
"There is very little that we could do so make the environmental situation worse,” said Stone.
As for the National Football League, Stone says their group has not received any calls from groups interested in building a new facility for an NFL team on the site but they are still earmarking 16 acres to be left alone for five years in case professional American football decides to return to America’s Finest City.
“We hope that at some point somebody will pick up the phone and call us but it hasn’t happened,” said Stone.
A possible sticking point here is the size of the stadium. SDSU needs a new home and would like something expandable to 40,000 seats. The current stadium proposal, according to Stone, would be expandable to 32,000 seats. After seeing the latest round of plans SDSU issued the following statement:
"We have reviewed the renderings and descriptions presented by FS Investors and we wish to clarify two critical issues: First, given the proposed density of development in the stadium area, there is no prospect for future expansion to 40,000 seats. Second, while the proposed gift of stadium ownership may convey tax advantages to FS Investors, it conveys no revenue or rights of ownership normally associated with a gift. We look forward to working with the Mayor, the City Council and the San Diego community to construct a mixed-use stadium that will serve the needs of SDSU's top 25-football program."
The MLS investment group has spoken about “gifting” their portion of the stadium to the University and the school is looking for clarification on what exactly they mean by that. The Aztecs are being asked to kick in $100 million to the construction cost and would be hesitant to do so if they are not happy with the capacity.