San Diego

Nearly 4 Years Later, Renovated Horton Plaza Park Reopens

The revamped and renovated Horton Plaza Park opened its doors in the heart of Downtown San Diego on Wednesday, but it's the project's three-and-a-half year history that won't be printed on any plaque in the park. 

At the grand unveiling, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other city officials all pointed out the park on the north side of Horton Plaza is a great new addition to downtown.

It would be hard to argue the point, given what stood in the same spot five years ago. The historic fountain, built in 1910, had been neglected, overrun with rats and described as an eye sore by many who lived and worked in the area. 

The new park, which features open seating areas and a restored fountain, will host more than 200 events a year.

The park is an upgrade, but it's what happened between the vision and fruition that city leaders did not talk much about at the opening festivities.

Construction started three and a half years ago and will finish at more than double the budget initially given.

While the loss of redevelopment money statewide may be the largest factor in the park’s delays, the timeline below shows there’s no one reason for the delays or cost overruns. A timeline will show it’s been a combination of delays.

November 2010: Plan announced for an $8 million dollar park on the north side of Horton Plaza.

October 2011: Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to pull the plug on statewide redevelopment money takes effect

November 2012: City Council approves the park, but with a price tag of $14 million

November 2012: Demolition begins

June 2014: budget increases to $18 million (Councilman Todd Gloria argues the state should pay the increase in costs for taking away the redevelopment money that would have initially paid for most of the park)

May 2015: NBC 7 confirms the construction company building the park does not have a valid contractor’s license.

May 2016: Park opens at a final cost of approximately $17 million.

"It really was a situation of what could go wrong, did go wrong," said Councilman Todd Gloria at Wednesday's opening.

Gloria and the city went to court to argue the state should pay for bulk of the project because it was redevelopment money that had previously been promised.  The city did eventually get it's money, but it added to the delays.

"Nothing worth doing is ever easy, and this would be an example of that," said Gloria.

The series of delays and budget increases is eerily similar to another downtown project in recent years: a bridge over Harbor Drive. 

In February of 2005, the concept was made public for a pedestrian bridge over Harbor Drive connecting San Diego’s waterfront to the East Village.

The initial budget was $8.6 million. The bridge eventually opened roughly six years later at a cost of nearly $27 million. It took less time to build the neighboring Hilton Bayfront hotel than it did to build the bridge.

It’s a beautiful bridge. It’s a beautiful park. Both will always have a little history you won’t find on any dedication plaque.

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