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Despite Pandemic, Construction Is Booming In Downtown San Diego

January 5, 2021

The party scene in downtown San Diego may not be as vibrant as it was pre-COVID, but that has not stopped the construction industry from moving forward with vigor. We have recently updated our database of projects downtown and remain somewhat amazed at how much is happening.

Office Construction

  • Perhaps the two most exciting near-term projects are the reincarnation of Horton Plaza and the IQHQ project at Manchester’s Pacific Gateway along the embarcadero.
  • The Campus at Horton (formerly Horton Plaza) will transform from an inward-facing retail center into an outward-facing office/retail mecca that may ultimately accommodate 3,000+ employees. In total, the project will have 772,000 square feet of
    office space and 300,000 square feet of retail space. Stockdale Capital Partners has secured financing and the project is moving full speed ahead.
  • IQHQ has acquired most of Manchester’s Pacific Gateway land and will ultimately build 1.3 million square feet of R&D office space. It is the brainchild of Alan Gold, the founder of Bio-Med Realty Trust.
  • Kilroy Realty has a 219,000-square-foot office building under construction in Little Italy.
  • As part of the existing Bank of America Building at Sixth and B Streets, GCM is building a six-story, 88,000-square-foot office building that will be a very handsome addition to the B Street corridor.
  • Manchester recently completed the development of the 370,000-square-foot NAVFAC headquarters in the Pacific Gateway project. Rumor has it that additional office towers are in planning for a co-venture with Manchester at Pacific Gateway.
  • Holland Partner Group (HPG) has nearly completed its 50,000-square-foot Park & Market office building in East Village.
  • UC San Diego has a new 60,000-square-foot education center in the Meriam project at 12th and Market.
  • Last, but certainly not least, is Nat Bosa’s remake of the 162,000-square-foot former Palladium building across the street from The Campus at Horton.

Hotel Construction

Shifting to the hospitality scene, two new hotels have been completed. Hilton’s Carte 1 includes 246 rooms (with Carte 2 in the works). The Guild, a very handsome redo of the old YMCA building, includes 162 rooms. A new AC Hotel by Marriott with 147 rooms is now under construction in the Gaslamp Quarter.

In the “pending” category, there are another 2,000+ rooms, half of them in the Pacific Gateway project.

Someday we may see a Ritz Carlton at Seventh and Market. In addition, there are another 3,000 hotel rooms in the planning stage, excluding Seaport Village, but including the 1,080 rooms planned for Manchester’s Pacific Gateway.

Perhaps the most interesting is Two America Plaza. The pylons have been in place for a couple of decades and it now looks like it will move forward with 301 rooms and a few apartments.

Residential Construction

In the past two decades, 21,000 new residential units have been completed downtown, including both market-rate and affordable housing. In the past five years alone, there have been 6,588 rental apartment units completed downtown as well as two condominium projects (both by Bosa) with a total of 517 units.

As you drive around downtown, keep an eye out for vertical activity. There are 2,636 rental units in eight projects under construction right now, two-thirds of them in East Village. Trammel Crow is also ready to break ground soon on a project in Little Italy with 400+ units.

But wait, there is more. In our database, we have another two dozen rental projects that are “pending.” They total 9,304 units, all of them rentals. Almost two-thirds are located in East Village.

There may also be a condominium project (or two, or three), depending on Bosa’s appetite. The 777 Beech project on Cortez Hill may move forward. (Xpera did a feasibility study on that project in 2005—a 15-year gestation period. But, that is San Diego.)

The other condominium project that is in the advanced planning stage is Caydon’s California Theater project at 1122 Fourth Avenue. The 41-story mega-project—Carrier-Johnson masterpiece—will feature 444 units.

Currently, there are about 37,000 people living downtown. Projections call for a population of 67,000 by 2050. With an average of 1.5 persons per household, all we have to do to get to figure is to build another 20,000 units. At an average of 300 units per project, we need to build 67 more buildings. Stay tuned.


Alan Nevin
Director of Economic and Market Research, Xpera Group

This article was originally published by Xpera Group which is now part of The Vertex Companies, LLC.

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