By Betsy Brennan, Carol Kim and Diane Peabody Straw
“Slam Diego” is a slogan we are seeing all around town as the Padres have set an MLB record for consecutive grand slam homeruns this season and just clinched a spot in the postseason for the first time since 2006. But, our hometown roster of Swingin’ Friars isn’t the only group swinging past the fences and sliding across home plate in East Village this year.
Last week, the City of San Diego decided to enter into an exclusive negotiating agreement with the Padres Development Team for the opportunity to redevelop East Village Quarter. Many know this site as Tailgate Park, a 5.25-acre parcel of land located just east of Petco Park that currently provides parking for ballpark games and events, but lies unused for much of the year.
With such a rare opportunity to invest in a parcel of land that has long been identified as a prime location for development, Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the city have made the right choice.
The Padres have assembled an all-star team for this opportunity, with experts in sports, finance and transit-centered, mixed-use development with their partners Tishman Speyer and Ascendant Capital Partners. This team’s bright vision, which is comprised of housing, public spaces and office buildings that aim to attract technology and biotechnology giants to downtown San Diego, has all the features our city and surrounding neighborhoods need. East Village Quarter will be constructed by a local skilled and trained workforce, creating high-quality job opportunities for the next generation of construction workers.
This is the type of land use decision that benefits from proven international expertise, while maintaining local input and control here in San Diego. As the current leaseholder for this property, the Padres maintain decision-making authority on the design and access to parking for Petco Park visitors. Selecting the Padres to lead the ultimate development process makes sense, and their team of experts ensures the project will be well executed and create a space all San Diegans can enjoy.
Importantly, this team’s vision will also protect parking needs for events and games at the ballpark, as parking in the area continues to diminish. Included in the vibrant mixed-use destination will be a 1,600-space parking garage that provides 600 more parking spaces than currently exist on the site.
The timing of the mayor’s selection could not be better as, following state of California redevelopment law, local agencies like Civic San Diego were put on the clock to enter into an agreement with a development team for the disposal and redevelopment of surplus land before 2021. This requirement applies to the East Village Quarter property. Under this timeline, the city has executed a well-thought-out approach to capitalize on the rare opportunity to develop a prime parcel of land in the heart of East Village before losing the opportunity at the end of this year.
As a city, we cannot miss this opportunity. We are proud to stand in support of our team and the city as they work to complete this agreement before the quickly approaching new year arrives. It’s also important to remember that this is the first step in a process that will include City Council approval and community feedback to finalize agreements, design and plans. The voice of community members, downtown neighbors, and stakeholders will continue to be valuable as a guide for the final project that will become part of our urban landscape.
When Petco Park was completed in 2004, the project catalyzed a period of growth and opportunity throughout the East Village and downtown San Diego, transforming the regional economy and downtown experience. The expansive growth throughout the years that have followed has turned the East Village into one of the most vibrant and exciting destinations in San Diego. The redevelopment of East Village Quarter presents San Diego with an opportunity to build on that success and the city has called that play correctly.
Just as Petco Park breathed new life into East Village, this project has the potential to incite economic development, foster innovation, and spur the development of housing units to help create a more prosperous and vibrant downtown.
Betsy Brennan is the president and CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership. Carol Kim is the political director of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council. Diane Peabody Straw is the executive director of the East Village Association.