Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer shake after signing agreement involving Point Loma site.

Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer shake after signing agreement involving site off Interstate 5 near old Town. Image via Twitter

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the San Diego Association of Governments signed an exclusive agreement Thursday with acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly to take the next step in redeveloping Naval Base Point Loma Old Town Campus into a massive transit hub.

Thursday’s signing means that the Navy is committed to the project — something that wasn’t necessarily a given. The previous Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, was ousted two months after signing an initial memorandum of understanding in 2019.

Faulconer said the agreement showed the strength of the plan.

“This new agreement is built on San Diego’s strong naval heritage,” he said. “The fact that it was signed by the Acting Secretary of the Navy inside the Pentagon sends the undeniable message that there is momentum and energy in both Washington, D.C. and San Diego to do something truly special with this property. It marks a huge next step in revitalizing this area into a civic asset that serves the U.S. Navy, the community and our regional transportation network.”

The Navy and SANDAG have previously discussed what a development at the site — commonly known as NAVWAR — would look like. A central terminus for buses and trains would be the keystone, but a people-mover or shuttle to the airport would also likely be part of the plan.

The 70.5-acre property Interstate 5-adjacent property is just blocks from the Old Town Transit Center, a centrally located spot which would connect San Diego International Airport with the rest of the county’s transit infrastructure.

In exchange for redeveloping a portion of the land into a transit hub, the county will build new facilities to house the thousands of Naval cybersecurity experts and contractors — including the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command — currently on site.

“The return of great power competition demands that we invest in cutting edge cyber capabilities to stay ahead, and San Diego provides the right access to talent and technology to accelerate the adoption of new concepts,” Modly said. “This project will help defend our nation and fuel the partnership and investment that has always made San Diego a great Navy community.”

NAVWAR consists largely of outdated World War Two-era airplane hangars. The Navy and SANDAG signed a memorandum of understanding in September 2019 to discuss and collaboratively draft a development plan. SANDAG’s board then approved $50 million in initial site-planning funds to be spent over the next five years.

The Naval Information Warfare Systems Command facility in Old Town. Courtesy SANDAG

“This agreement gives SANDAG the opportunity to work exclusively with the Navy to potentially develop a central mobility hub that would provide critical transit to the airport and connect all modes of regional transit,” said SANDAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata. “A collaboration of this magnitude could solidify the Navy’s future — and their strategically critical cybersecurity mission — in San Diego for generations to come.”

The project might receive partial funding from the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, which signed a 10-year agreement with its airline partners in 2019 to fund improvements to public transportation to and from the airport.

The project still has a long road ahead of it, and would need extensive environmental reviews, as well as city, state and federal approval. Total cost is estimated between $3.8 and $4.7 billion.

— City News Service