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West Coast's biggest hotel

Mega-Marriott proposed for planned mixed-use development next to Petco Park

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Plans are evolving for what could be the West Coast's largest hotel, in the Ballpark Village master plan, but its 500-foot height and added traffic could become issues.

The proposed 1,929-room Marriott (NYSE: MAR) hotel would reportedly have about 20 more rooms than the coast's current leader, a convention-oriented Hilton Hotel in San Francisco; and about 300 more rooms than the nearby Manchester Grand Hyatt on the San Diego bayfront.

John Kratzer, JMI Realty president, said details are still being determined but call for about 192,000 square feet of meeting space along with the rooms, a retail component and four sit-down restaurants whose brands have yet to be determined.

"This is pretty common in hotels of this size," Kratzer said.

The development, which once had a residential component, would have two 500-foot main hotel towers with three vertically stacked ballrooms -- the first floor of which would be sunk 20 feet below grade -- in a 110-foot-high podium between the towers.

A total of four levels of subterranean parking totaling 1,478 spaces was proposed by Marriott in its original submission last year but that figure may be amended upward given the hotel's larger size.

The plans will not be without controversy. For example, the two 500-foot towers would dwarf Petco Park and the DiamondView Tower office complex.

Anticipating criticism, Marriott wrote that view corridors for the project would be maintained from the reading room of the proposed new downtown library, and along southbound 10th Avenue by orienting the towers to provide a 285-foot clear width.

Kratzer, who called the hotel a billion-dollar development, said it has the potential to generate as much as $15 million a year in transient occupancy tax receipts along with substantial property and sales tax revenues.

The Marriott project is also projected to generate 1,500 to 1,600 permanent jobs.

As expensive as the hotel will be, Kratzer said Marriott, which could conceivably self-finance much of the development, has committed to doing the project without a public subsidy.

"It's probably the only project in the country like this that doesn't have a big public subsidy," he said.

The benefits may be many, but the traffic the project will generate may also be cause for concern.

However, Kratzer said the Gaslamp is within walking distance and the trolley is close enough that conventioneers shouldn't need cars.

"Is traffic a big issue? Sure. Is it going to be a problem? It shouldn't be," he said.

Kratzer said even on game days at Petco Park, the Padres traffic management plans should work well enough to accommodate the extra cars and people.

Another asset expected to help the traffic situation is the proposed pedestrian bridge across Harbor Drive providing access between the Convention Center and Petco.

"The pedestrian bridge was identified as a critical component before the ballpark was built," Kratzer said, adding that the JMI and Lennar Urban Development partnership which owns the Ballpark Village site has donated $4.9 million toward the bridge's construction.

The projected cost of that bridge has climbed from $13 million to at least $21 million during the past three years by one estimate but the Centre City Development Corp. said it is committed to seeing it built.

Under the current and very preliminary expansion proposal, the 2.6 million-square-foot convention center would see its existing 525,701 square feet of ground floor exhibit space about double to more than 1 million square feet.

The 204,114 square feet of meeting space would also be doubled to about 400,000 square feet.

The proposed mega-Marriott would join a number of other hotel properties on or near the San Diego bayfront.

Two of those properties are the two-tower, 1,362-room San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina and the two-tower, 1,625-room Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego. Another is the 512-room Omni Hotel San Diego attached to Petco Park.

Under construction is the 1,200-room Hilton Convention Center Hotel on the former Campbell Shipyard site.

Proposed are the 1,800-room Gaylord Hotel Chula Vista's bayfront and its accompanying convention facility.

"It would be fabulous to have that size (1,929 rooms) property that near the eastern side of the Convention Center," Wallace said.

Wallace says her corporation has to turn away about one year's worth of business for every year it operates.

"The HIMSS conference (Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society) outgrew San Diego in 2006. That represented 70,000 room nights," Wallace said.

Wallace said while there are 11,000 hotel rooms downtown, just because a hotel is of a certain size, doesn't mean the rooms are available.

"The (existing) Marriott may have 1,300 rooms, but they will not commit them all to a convention," Wallace said adding that around half are held back for other visitors. "We still use the Town & Country in Mission Valley or Mission Bay hotels for the overflow but shuttling back and forth gets expensive."

While the organizers figure out where they are going to put their conventioneers, Kratzer is still in the process of determining the mix of the rest of the Ballpark Village plan.

Although the hotel will supplant what could have been thousands of housing units, Kratzer said he believes there will still be room for a residential component in Ballpark Village.

"We are looking at about 70,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor and residential could go on top of that but we're still figuring this out," he said.

Kratzer did say he is confident that once the surplus of downtown condominium units has been absorbed over the next year or so, the market will look a whole lot better.

"There's very little in the pipeline. The market is taking a breather and that's just what's needed," he said.

Repeated calls to multiple Marriott officials over the course of several days were not returned.

Designer Johnson Fain Architects of Los Angeles was told by Marriott that project renderings wouldn't be released until the plans are further along.

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