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Broadway cruise ship terminal finally has a permanent design

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The design for the proposed Broadway cruise ship terminal has made the trip from large tent to ugly metal building to permanent structure, but bankrolling the new terminal at the foot of Broadway could be an issue.

On Tuesday evening, the San Diego Board of Port Commissioners approved the design of the 50,000-square-foot terminal that will be needed before the planned B Street terminal expansion is under construction.

Once the Broadway terminal and the B Street work is completed, the Broadway pier could also be used for overflow passengers when three or more ships are in port, or for meetings and other functions when ships weren't there.

A temporary tent structure, not unlike what is used for overflow passengers now, had been considered, but a state law said such structures, even with nonflammable fabric, may not be more than 21,000 square feet due to fire considerations.

A metal prefabricated structure that had been referred to as "a metal can" was then proposed at the end of 2006 eliciting a flood of negative comments last year that led to the redesign.

The upgraded design by the Miami-based architectural firm of Bermello Ajamil & Partners features a "sawtooth" clerestory roof with horizontal metal louvers, glass panels, photovoltaic cells and incorporates a tall spire to fulfill public art requirements.

Several community outreach meetings were held over the past year to present the design and to seek public feedback.

The public expressed a need for a combined mixed-use area that has been incorporated.

Other requests included minimizing fences and gates while maximizing public access.

The upgraded design has pushed the project cost to $23.6 million -- $10.9 million more than that for the basic metal structure.

The Port originally intended to pay for the project with a $12.75 million loan received from Carnival Corp. (NYSE: CCL), but will now need to complete the funding package with funds from other sources.

The Port has been discussing financing options with both the City of San Diego and the Centre City Development Corp. to pay for the $10.9 million shortfall.

A letter from the port to Mayor Jerry Sanders requesting assistance with paying for the cost of the terminal is being sent, but the city's own fiscal problems could be an issue.

"I think the burden should be shared," said Michael Bixler, port commission chairman.

Commissioner Rocky Spane disagreed saying the port should be able to find the money to commit to the project.

The Port's cruise business has increased steadily over the years.

An average of 250 cruise vessels now arrive with 800,000 passengers each year, bringing about $2 million in economic impact with each call.

This is projected to climb to 1.2 passengers by 2015 along with resulting economic benefits, but only if the people can be accommodated.

"To keep pace with the growth, it is imperative that the port improve its cruise facilities," port officials wrote.

The port hopes the Broadway cruise terminal building will be finished by the end of 2009, but admits that timetable could slip.

As for the new B Street terminal -- a project that has been considered for the past 16 years -- nothing can really happen until the Broadway terminal is completed, because it will serve as the only passenger terminal for cruise ships until the B Street facility is finished.

The existing 35,000-square-foot structure is expected to grow to 174,000 square feet.

Two years ago when the B Street terminal and the Lane Field hotels development were being considered as one project under one development team, it appeared Federal Development of Washington, D.C. in conjunction with casino operator Viejas Enterprises would be that team.

After Federal left the project when it failed to reach certain benchmarks, Manchester Financial Group was brought onto that team to develop Lane Field.

Last year, the port decided to separate the B Street terminal and Lane Field into two projects.

Then, a team that included Lankford Associates, Hardage Hotels and C.W. Clark Inc. was chosen to develop Lane Field.

It now means there will have to be whole new request for qualification and proposal processes for the B Street terminal to move forward.

It has been a very frustrating experience for port spokeswoman Rita Vandergaw, who was hoping to get both projects done long before now.

"We were going to build a $90 million cruise ship terminal. That was 16 years ago," said Vandergaw, who was moved to tears. "It's time to get this done."

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