San Diego

Empty Storefronts Line Once-Bustling Horton Plaza in Downtown San Diego

“It was a great time, and I don’t understand what changed,” said Luke Dawson

Saturday’s deadly shooting at Horton Plaza is the latest development in what seems to be a dark cloud hanging over the once-prized shopping mall in downtown San Diego.

In the last three years, many of its tenants have left, while no new businesses are filling the empty spaces.

“I was walking through the mall today. I thought it was kind of sad to see the transition," said Luke Dawson of Golden Hill.

Dawson used to work at the Express store in Horton Plaza and said he remembers going there as a child with his family.

“It was a great time, and I don’t understand what changed,” he said.

In the three-and-a-half years since Jimbo’s grocery store opened its Horton Plaza location, store manager Phillip Balderrama said he has seen at least five stores close.

“Gradually stores are closing, and spots aren’t getting filled up,” Balderrama said.

Balderrama noticed an increase in closures after Nordstrom shut down its location last August, making it the last original anchor of the mall.

“All that’s left is 24 Hour Fitness and Jimbo’s and a bunch of little shops,” Balderrama explained.

Adjacent to Horton Plaza Mall is Horton Plaza Park, which has had its share of issues since it reopened in May 2016.

The park shut down for three years during a $18 million renovation project by the City of San Diego. Westfield is responsible for operating the park for 25 years; they are also the operator of Horton Plaza Mall.

“I don’t really see any people besides homeless in the park area,” said Stephanie Meyer.

Meyer is the server manager at Spike Africa's, a bar and grill across the street from Horton Plaza Park.

The reason her owners chose to start a restaurant on Fourth Avenue and Broadway, Meyer explained, is precisely because of the park and all the city promised to downtown investors.

But since it’s opening, Meyer said the city’s promises have fallen short.

“We haven’t been seeing the profitable promises that we were told,” Meyer said. “We’re hoping that now that [the park] is open, they will start scheduling the 200 plus events they said they were going to start doing."

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