Port of San Diego in Exclusively Eyes One Proposal for Waterfront Seaport Village Site

The proposal from Protea Waterfront Development includes a new beach recreation area, expanded park space, an aquarium and shopping and dining areas

The Port of San Diego has chosen to exclusively continue conversations with one company proposing a $1.5 billion redevelopment of the prime area along downtown’s waterfront, including the site of the local landmark, Seaport Village.

After sifting through six proposals and giving the public a first look at the possibilities on Wednesday, the Port announced Thursday that it will now continue discussions solely with one candidate to redevelop the land and water area spanning 70 acres along Central Embarcadero.

That company is Protea Waterfront Development (PWD). The Port will further evaluate PWD's plan for the prime waterfront site. The final selection of the company handling the major project is expected to be formally announced in the coming months.

PWD’s plan for the property along the bayfront includes a redesign of Embarcadero Marina Park North, expanding the park and using Pacific Coast Highway and Kettner Boulevard as major gateways to the San Diego Bay.

The proposal includes new, sandy space for recreation with visions to host wellness activities at the site, including volleyball, Tai Chi and outdoor spin classes. The proposal says visitors will also be able to rent kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and bikes in that area, or sit on the sand and have a picturesque picnic with views of the San Diego Bay and the Coronado Bay Bridge.

The plan also includes “Aquarium Park,” an area that will feature an aquarium and habitat for Seaport Village ducks, plus a park with trails heading to habitat restoration sites at Embarcadero Marina Park North.

Other features of PWD’s plan include:

The Esplanade: a half-mile pathway at the water’s edge designed for pedestrians, bicyclists and sightseers. The path will be 50 feet wide, with 35 feet dedicated to a plant-lined promenade with lighting strung overhead. The wooden boardwalk will also include seating areas.

G Street Pier: This area at the northernmost Seaport features upgrades to Tuna Harbor Park including a new family-friendly beach, a dock for paddleboarding near the USS Midway and a floating Olympic-sized swimming pool. The proposal says this section will integrate the existing Fish Market restaurant at first, with “the opportunity in the future to relocate the restaurant to the Seaport core and expand the park uses of the pier.”

Ruocco Park: This area, south along the Esplanade, will be expanded to include more park space, an Observation Tower and an exhibition hall that will include the relocated Looff Carousel from Seaport Village. The new park will also include an amphitheater for movies and performances in the park, and a plaza for pop-up markets and special events.

Market Street & Pier: This section includes a stone-paved pedestrian path “similar to Pike Place in the Pike Place Market,” the proposal states. This is the path pedestrians can take to various retails shops and fish markets and where buskers and holiday displays can be featured. The Market Street area would start at the terminus of Pacific Coast Highway and end on the Market Pier near fishing boats.

Pacific Place: Located where Pacific Coast Highway meets the sea, Pacific Place includes a plaza with views of San Diego Bay described in PWD’s proposal as a “grand outdoor theater” and “a floating stage for movies, bands and interpretive programming.” A café in this plaza will offer ice cream, coffee and casual dining in adjacent seating areas.

California Paseo & Pier: Another stone-paved pedestrian street, this shopping and dining area links the Seaport Core to The Headquarters and Embarcadero Marina Park North. This path will be lined with retail shops, bars, restaurants and small businesses relocated from Seaport Village.

The Spire: This 500-foot-tall feature, located near hotel towers, will include a passenger gondola ride and spots where visitors can view the San Diego skyline from high above.

To see PWD’s full proposal, click here.

PWD is based in San Diego and spearheaded by Yehudi “Gaf” Gaffen, founder and CEO of Gafcon, and Jeff Jacobs, former Qualcomm chief marketing officer and current co-owner of Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa. Jeffrey Essakow, co-owner of Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, developer of Flower Hill Promenade and co-founder of Challenged Athletes Foundation, is also a PWD partner.

After the Port's announcement Thursday, Gaffen spoke with reporters at Seaport Village and said he was in shock that his company was chosen to lead this major redevelopment project.

"Being selected really, really feels good," Gaffen told NBC 7.

Gaffen said PWD's plan is to improve upon and revitalize an area that is so special and authentic to San Diego. This includes keeping many of the small Seaport Village shops that have been in business for decades in the area.

"This will truly become a mecca. We see this as a new place in San Diego -- a place that hasn't existed," he added, saying that a revamp of the area is long overdue.

Gaffen estimates the plan, once everything is said and done, will cost around $1.5 billion.

"We anticipate breaking ground at the beginning of 2020," he explained.

Gaffen said the build-out will take approximately four years and the new recreation, shopping and dining hub will open in phases.

Over the next few years, Gaffen said PWD will also look into the parking, transportation and environmental impacts of the redevelopment project and make sure the plan falls in line with requirements.

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