Massive Deal Would Transform Downtown Waterfront

The proposed Research and Development District, to be built along San Diego's waterfront

A development deal was announced on Monday that has the potential to transform the former Navy Broadway Complex site into a self-proclaimed Research and Development District, and with it, San Diego's downtown waterfront skyline.

The so-called RADD will occupy five square blocks and will feature laboratory, office and retail space, officials said in a news release sent out on Monday.

Plans have been in the works for nearly 25 years for the site, located at the foot of Broadway and running south, where for decades a set of aging buildings awaited demolition.

So far, much of the site has been cleared, but to date only a 17-story 373,000 square-foot local Navy headquarters has been newly built on the site -- sailors and support staff are due to move in next month. The $165 million cost of that building was swapped by developer "Papa Doug" Manchester (whose surname is also affixed to the nearby Manchester Grand Hyatt) in exchange for a 99-year lease on the property that was inked in 2006, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

However, along the way, negotiations began between the Manchester Financial Group and IQHQ, a self-described "premier life sciences real estate development company," with the resulting deal dramatically scaling back the scope of the Manchester Pacific Gateway project. The financial details of the deal have not been disclosed.

The RADD will feature ground floor retail space. Photo courtesy IQHQ

"[Not] only does it represent our first acquisition in the San Diego region … we also have an opportunity to create the first truly urban waterfront campus dedicated to the advancement of life sciences," Tracy A. Murphy, president of IQHQ, was quoted in the release. "Once complete, the RADD will be a premier development that will spark and define the region’s commercial life science market in San Diego similar to that of the Seaport District in Boston."

The RADD will now consume the vast majority of the site and will be "the largest urban commercial waterfront site along California’s Pacific coast," according to an IQHQ publicist.

San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer was effusive in his praise for the RADD.

"The Research and Development District will transform our waterfront and bring top-tier life science companies to downtown," Faulconer was quoted as saying in the same news release. "Congratulations to IQHQ on this exciting project, and we look forward to seeing this district come to life!"

The RADD and the transformation of Horton Plaza into a new $330 million high-tech office campus and lifestyle center will add thousands of square feet of office space to downtown San Diego, where the building boom of the last two decades has largely centered around residential construction. It's not clear how the two new projects that will affect the commercial real estate market, considering that, according to some reports, 25% of the workforce will be working remotely during the pandemic.

Moving ahead, the Manchester Financial Group will retain control of two square blocks of the site, with plans to construct a hotel with more than a thousand rooms as well as a 1.9-acre plaza.

IQHQ said that they expect to break ground this week, with the expectation that the first phase of the RADD would be complete by the summer of 2023.

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