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Bringing business back

Downtown's commercial development keeping pace with residential

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While downtown San Diego's residential boom has dominated recent headlines, it has quietly emerged as one of the nation's most hospitable places to conduct business. Downtown has had more than 5 million square feet of office space become available since 1975, with another 28 million square feet anticipated over the next 25 years.

"The diversity of our marketplace makes us less vulnerable to swings in the national or global economy," said Peter Hall, Centre City Development Corp. (CCDC) president. "Many local companies are on the forefront of their respective disciplines, and more often than not, they set the industry standards. With today's non-traditional work schedules and environments, downtown seeks to attract firms in all disciplines by providing an attractive array of amenities and lifestyle choices."

Based on draft 2005 Downtown Community Plan Update estimates, downtown could add an estimated 50,000 new residents by the year 2030, bringing the population to roughly 80,000, while the number of jobs could grow from 75,000 to more than 150,000. This influx of residents and workers is being driven by the area's attractive mix of housing options and expanding economic opportunities.

Several new commercial projects are under way or planned that will add more than 800,000 square feet to the existing inventory, including the first Class A office tower to be built in San Diego in more than 10 years.

A rendering of Broadway 655.

In 2003, Lankford and Associates began construction on Broadway 655, a 23-story, 412-foot tower with 454,000 square feet of office space and 6,000 square feet of retail space. "Rob (Lankford) started looking at the West End more than a dozen years ago," said Tom Gable, director of Broadway 655's public relations. "He knew there was going to be a renaissance there, and wanted to contribute an important addition to the skyline." Completion is targeted for June 2005.

DiamondView Tower, a 15-story high-rise with 264,000 square feet of office space and 36,000 square feet of retail space, is planned by Cisterra Development LLC for the area just beyond the right field fence of Petco Park; and Smart Corner, a 19-story mixed-use, transit-oriented development project by Smart Corner LLC that will provide 93,000 square feet of office space, 25,000 square feet of retail space, and will play prominently in the completion of the Bay-to-Park link -- linking Balboa Park to San Diego Bay.

Additionally, more than 650,000 square feet of new neighborhood-serving retail space is under way or planned, including a new Albertsons supermarket at 14th and Market streets in East Village.

In an effort to promote downtown's business sector and ensure a seamless transition for firms in expanding or relocating to San Diego, the Downtown Business Attraction Program was created. This public/private initiative consists of CCDC, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., the city of San Diego's Community and Economic Development Department, the Downtown San Diego Partnership, and many private sector members from development, finance and design.

"The collaborative seeks to attract a diverse mix of high-wage, high-growth industries to downtown," Hall said. "We have established research and outreach programs to provide prospective tenants with statistics and analysis of the area's real estate, work force, transportation and lifestyle options, and tax climate."

San Diego was described by Forbes magazine as "America's best place for business and careers," an accolade it has earned in part by having the state's highest concentration of college-educated workers, the nation's most extensive wireless infrastructure and local tax policies that incites businesses to concentrate their growth here.

"CCDC's objective for a successful downtown effectively balances residential and commercial development," Hall said. "It's smart growth when people are not forced to commute across the county. Downtown today has a genuine sense of community that's meeting the needs and desires of people."

Downtown San Diego's investment in technological infrastructure includes more than 75,000 strand miles of fiber optic cable running under the streets, with hundreds of local "hot spots" and many buildings offering free WiFi access.

CCDC's planning has positioned it to accommodate growth in the business and residential sectors, and the demands for cutting-edge technology that growth will create.

Downtown's business sector is primed to undergo another growth spurt. Just as Horton Plaza was a catalyst for revitalization of the Centre City area in the early 1980s, Petco Park, which opened in April of this year, has already stimulated more than $1.2 billion of private residential and commercial development in the East Village and beyond. Locally, business owners are benefiting from increased foot traffic and residential developments that have brought a whole new customer base to the area.

Nationally, the ballpark enabled the story of downtown's revitalization to play out across the country, attracting interest from executives and site selection consultants from around the world.

For more information on downtown's redevelopment efforts, or the Business Attraction Program, visit CCDC's Web site at www.ccdc.com, or contact Janice Plumstead, EDC, at (619) 234-8484.

Danziger is communications director for Centre City Development Corp.

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