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Development of the tidelands on San Diego Bay is making exciting headway as the Port of San Diego gears up for groundbreakings on four high-profile projects. The highly anticipated projects will improve public access to the waterfront while changing the landscape of the waterfronts in Chula Vista and San Diego.

Among the projects is the transformation of the Old Police Headquarters into a commercial center. The Spanish Colonial structure, once home to the San Diego Police Department, is located next to Seaport Village, just south of Harbor Drive between Pacific Highway and Kettner Boulevard in San Diego. The entire project area encompasses roughly 21.3 acres and when developed, will include 115,000 square feet of specialty retail, restaurant and entertainment uses.

The Old Police Headquarters building was built in 1939 and the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The developer, Terramar Retail Centers of Carlsbad, intends on keeping the historic value of the building.

The project will replace the former Harbor Seafood Mart building, located next to Seaport Village, with a smaller facility to incorporate commercial fishing uses, a seafood restaurant and retail use. About 4.5 acres will be devoted to a public park that will replace an existing parking lot. Landscaping, special water features, paved pedestrian walkways and public plazas make up the remaining public areas. The Port of San Diego anticipates a groundbreaking late this year.

North Embarcadero Visionary Plan

North of the Old Police Headquarters is one of the largest and most ambitious projects in the Port's history, the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan, which envisions a waterfront transformation. The Port is partnering with Centre City Development Corp. and the city of San Diego to develop a mile and a half of waterfront property on Harbor Drive from Laurel Street south to Pacific Highway and Harbor Drive. The project has 10 phases and a groundbreaking for the first phase is scheduled for late next year.

The first phase includes the construction of a 100-foot wide pedestrian esplanade on Harbor Drive between the B Street Pier and the Navy Pier, where the Midway Museum is located. It also includes the design of West Broadway from Harbor Drive to the railroad tracks just east of Pacific Highway. Extensive infrastructure improvements of West Broadway will be made. Lush landscaping will be added, including formal groves, colorful annuals, exotic plants and ornamental grasses. Majestic palm trees will line the median on lower Broadway. Decorative yet functional outdoor lighting will be added, as well as an artistic water feature. The first phase also may include new ticket kiosks for the waterfront attractions, new public restrooms and shaded seating areas.

The remaining phases of the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan could take up to 20 years to complete. Additional phases will redevelop the Grape Street Pier area -- turning it into a piazza reminiscent of areas along the French Riviera or in Italy -- and will redo the "crescent" area that begins just south of the Coast Guard station. The North Embarcadero Visionary Plan also envisions some type of iconic public artwork to be located in an area just before the crescent, considered the point of arrival to the San Diego harbor.

The concept of the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan is to enliven San Diego's "front porch," making it an exciting area for people to gather along the waterfront. Harbor Drive will be realigned to redirect the majority of vehicle traffic to Pacific Highway. The widened esplanades will attract more people to the waterfront and the area will be a centerpiece for art and cultural activities.

Lane Field

Just across the street from the North Embarcadero is another upcoming Port development project, the Lane Field Development. Lane Field was once the home of the Pacific Coast League Padres but in recent years has been used mostly for parking.

Lane Field San Diego Developers LLC is planning for two hotels on the property. A Coastal Development Permit was authorized in January, and ground breaking is expected in spring 2009.

A 250-room hotel operated by Woodfin Suites will include 30,000 square feet of retail space and restaurants, ballrooms and meeting rooms on the north side of Lane Field.

On the south side, another hotel operated by InterContinental (NYSE: IHG) with 525 guest rooms and 50,000 square feet of retail, restaurants, ballrooms and meeting rooms will be built. The developers intend on making the project Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certified, which means the hotel will be designed to use less energy, less water and produce fewer pollutants.

The Lane Field development is expected to create about 2,000 permanent hotel jobs and 500 temporary construction jobs. The city of San Diego will receive about $5.4 million from Transit Occupancy Tax revenues during the project's opening year in 2011. This number should increase to $7.5 million by 2015.

The project will also include public amenities, including an extended C Street, which will improve access to the area and provide public view terraces and plazas.

In May, the Port of San Diego and the U.S. Navy signed a Memorandum of Understanding that would allow the Port to acquire a parcel of Navy property located at 1220 Pacific Highway. The area is about 3.4 acres and a portion of it will be incorporated into the plans that Lane Field San Diego Developers LLC have for the property. A portion may also be used for a possible extension of B Street. Acquiring this parcel of property is a key element in the Port's redevelopment plans for the North Embarcadero area. It will help ensure that all developments in the area adjacent to the North Embarcadero parallel the goals and objectives of the visionary plan.

Chula Vista bay front

The Port is working with the city of Chula Vista on its bay front master plan, which will include a $1 billion hotel and convention center, offices, retail and several hundred residences.

Plans are to redevelop an approximately 550-acre area on the waterfront with a mix of parks, open space, civic/cultural uses, hotel, office, residential, retail, entertainment and recreational areas.

The Port recirculated the Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report for the project due to the number of comments received from individuals, organizations and federal, state and local agencies. The report addresses possible environmental effects from the proposed development including traffic, aesthetics, water and air quality, noise, biological resources and other factors. The report was out for public review until Aug. 7.

The key components of the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan include creating a signature park, open space and cultural uses. It will also improve views to the water, include the resort convention center and hotel proposed by Gaylord Entertainment (NYSE: GET) and incorporate residential, mixed-use and recreational areas.

Three specific districts make up the bay front project: the Sweetwater District, Harbor District and Otay District. The Sweetwater District includes approximately 130 acres. Proposed plans include an 18-acre park, a bike trail and improvements to the Chula Vista Nature Center parking area and its access road.

The Harbor District will include a vibrant mix of hotel and conference space, parkland, waterfront promenades, bike paths, cultural space, office space and retail uses. The proposed Gaylord project would be located here and take up about 39 acres. The planned hotel will include 1,500 to 2,000 rooms, and 415,000 square feet of meeting space. The district also incorporates the reuse of the former BF Goodrich property. Last year, the Port completed a demolition project removing 63 industrial buildings that made up the campus.

The Harbor District and the proposed Gaylord hotel and conference center are part of the first phase of the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan. The entire project includes four phases, which could take about 20 years to complete. Once the final Environmental Impact Report is certified and the California Coastal Commission has approved the project, construction can begin on the first phase. The Port of San Diego anticipates that construction of the first two phases will take about five years.

Elicone is a spokeswoman for the Unified Port of San Diego.

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