Delays, Higher Costs in Store for Horton Plaza Park

Now, it appears construction on the "urban plaza" won't be finished until October 2015

There will be more delays, and a much bigger price tag, for a new “urban plaza” next to Horton Plaza Park.

The agency that oversees that ambitious project, which is being built right next to the entrance to the Horton Plaza Mall, on Broadway and Fourth Avenue, confirmed that construction on the so-called “world class” urban plaza will not start until at least this October, and won’t be finished until October 2015, at the earliest.

Staffers at Civic San Diego, which supervises downtown redevelopment, also revealed that the lowest bid on the construction project is $3.7 million over budget.

It was a different story in November, 2012, when heavy equipment demolished the old Robinsons-May/Planet Hollywood building overlooking historic Horton Plaza Park.

A news release from the Westfield Group, which owns the Horton Plaza shopping center, promised that “Construction of the new urban plaza… is expected to begin in April, 2013, with project completion scheduled for Spring, 2014.”

The land was quickly cleared to make room for the new plaza, but for more than a year, it’s been nothing more than a huge hole in the ground surrounded by a tall plywood fence.

Joey and Rhonda Aiello, who run a popular shoe shine stand in Horton Circle, are looking forward to the beautiful new plaza, and are frustrated by the continued delays.

“Because this mall's really slowed our business and, (and) slowed down progress, so we just really need to make some up-to-date changes, to make people come to the mall," said Rhonda Aiello.

Civic San Diego blames the delays in part on the state of California’s decision to dismantle local redevelopment agencies.

Civic San Diego executives expressed confidence that the state’s Development Tax Fund will provide the extra $3.7 million needed to build the urban plaza.

It’s also possible that an elaborate fountain planned for the new plaza will be dropped from the design. That change could save about $1 million.

And if necessary, local businesses and charities will be asked to contribute to the project.

Cynthia Morgan, who chairs the Civic San Diego board of directors, apologized to area merchants for the delay.

“We hope to get the park up-and-running as soon as possible, and just would appreciate their patience," Morgan said.

Joey Aiello could only shake his head, when told about the delays.

“Oh, yeah,” he told NBC 7. “I wish it was done yesterday.”

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