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Office tower might take up residence at Horton Plaza

The Westfield Corp. has proposed developing a large office tower at Horton Plaza where Robinson's May and Planet Hollywood have been and where a Sam Goody store is today.

The tower may be just the beginning of the changes at Horton Plaza.

Nancy Graham, Centre City Development Corp. president, talked of the changes on Wednesday during a Downtown San Diego Partnership meeting at the Marriott Gaslamp Hotel.

Graham offered few details, but Jason Hughes, principal of The Irving Hughes Group tenant brokerage firm, said he has discussed the possibility with Westfield officials during the past 18 months. The exact size of the project has yet to be determined, however.

Calls to Westfield officials were not returned, but Hughes suggested the development could be about 300,000 square feet and perhaps 20 to 25 stories. The building that houses the Sam Goody space would be demolished.

"This sounded intriguing. It's a great location. A lot of my clients are very interested," said Hughes.

The development, which would likely have at least some underground parking, could augment this greatly by its access to Horton Plaza spaces.

While many of downtown's mixed-use developments have only ground floor retail, Hughes said Westfield is examining the possibility of having three floors of retail on the lower floors of the office building that would act as a continuation of a redeveloped Horton Plaza. Ernest W. Hahn's roughly 900,000-square-foot mall was completed in 1985.

Just how Horton Plaza itself will redevelop is still in flux, but Westfield or a future tenant has plans to spend about $2 million to redevelop the old Mervyn's store space that became available earlier this year. The Jaynes Corp of California, a San Diego-based contracting firm, has been listed as a prime bidder on that job.

Centre City Development Corp. spokesman Derek Danziger confirmed that a proposed 450-room hotel along the G Street side of the Horton Plaza parking garage is still an approved project.

At the northeastern corner of the mall, the adjoining Balboa Theater is in the midst of a multimillion dollar renovation that was decades in coming, and to the northwest, Spreckels Theater is being eyed for a major upgrade as well.

As for the office tower, Hughes said it is hard to imagine a better location. Not only that, since Westfield is so large that it can finance its own projects if need be, it doesn't have to have the pre-leasing that is required in most other office buildings.

Hughes noted that Lankford & Associates had to bring the Broadway 655 project to 50 percent pre-leased before it was allowed to begin construction earlier in the decade.

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