Seaport Village is not just a plot of land!
I am not opposed to growth! It’s an exciting time for San Diego, there are a lot of great things going on right now. Coastal North County may get a major new mall on the former Strawberry fields, UTC mall is building an expansion, the airport expansion is amazing, Horton Plaza is about to get a face lift and almost everything between Seaport Village and the City Administration building is new, revitalized or in the process of being developed. I think all of these projects are going to be a huge success and beneficial to San Diego citizens.
I feel we need to preserve special places for future generations. Seaport Village is a special place that is dear to the hearts of many San Diegans, it’s not just a plot of land. Just because something is getting a little old or not generating enough income, doesn’t mean we should tear it down and build something modern. It would be really cool to have an amazing, “world class” resort on the land where Cabrillo National Monument sits, but should that happen? Absolutely not! Seaport Village isn’t necessarily historic yet, but it will be in just 15 years.
Every major city with a thriving tourist industry has an area similar to Seaport Village. San Francisco has Fisherman's Wharf, Seattle has Pike Place Market, New York has Times Square and Los Angles has Hollywood. Tourists want “unique” touristy areas that they can’t find anywhere else and Seaport Village is San Diego’s. Tourists don’t want high end stores like Gucci and Tiffany or even a Gap and J Crew, when they can shop those at home. They want unique, one of kind shopping areas with unique, one of kind shops. As tacky as they sometimes are, they want city souvenirs to take home to family, friends and for themselves. Think about how many people around the world right now are walking around with San Diego t-shirts on, advertising San Diego travel for free. Not having an area like Seaport Village for our tourist would damage our tourism industry and our cities tax revenue over time. This is not just my opinion, Seaport Village is ranked as the #1 shopping destination in San Diego on Tripadvisor.
How much growth and development can the shoreline of Downtown San Diego support? Right next door to Seaport Village is a huge $1.3 BILLION DOLLAR project that is expected to begin in early 2016. The project is called Manchester Pacific Gateway, and could be very similar to what we see proposed for the Seaport Village property. The Port has also ousted Anthony’s, a city icon, in favor of a higher rent, multi restaurant complex. Horton Plaza is planning a major renovation and seeking higher end retailers as well. Several hotels are in the works in addition to the Manchester Pacific Gateway. Which include a Ritz Carlton and Hilton Canopy hotel in the East Village, Lane Field North high rise hotel (nearing completion) and Lane Field South high rise hotel about to break ground.
How much “high end” retail can the Port shoreline support? The Port and developers should know that high end retailers don’t like touristy downtown areas. They want shopping destinations away from the views, distractions, site seers and the congestion, not to mention high parking fees. In San Francisco the high end shopping is away from the harbors edge in the heart of downtown, in Los Angles it’s on Rodeo Drive, in New York it’s on 5th Avenue and in San Diego it’s in Fashion Valley. Tiffany spent millions on a flagship store in Downtown San Diego that only lasted a few years before they packed up and moved to Fashion Valley. Louis Vuitton eventually closed their Horton Plaza location in favor of the Fashion Valley location, even Apple hasn’t opened a store in Downtown. With the growth of the internet there just aren’t enough retailers looking to expand in brick and mortar, especially into questionable areas, when they know they can thrive in Fashion Valley and UTC which is also seeking retailers for their current expansion.
Yes, Seaport Village maybe a little worn out and rundown and not attracting the best retailers for some of the locations, but how can they? Every business in Seaport Village is on 90 days notice due to a looming tear down and the future of the Village as a whole is on thin ice. No business or bank is going to invest in a restaurant or retail location without a lease securing their investment. If the Seaport Village landlord could grant 5 and 10 year leases, you would see a huge improvement in the stores and restaurants overnight. In today's corporate world, Seaport Village is one of those very rare areas where an individual entrepreneur can open their dream business. Seaport Village supports over 50 local small business San Diego families and all of that money stays in San Diego. If national retailers are brought in, in place of these local business owners most of the money will leave San Diego and end up in share holders pockets.
The Port of San Diego has put the redevelopment of Seaport Village on the “fast track”, in the hopes of starting construction in early 2016. Since the Port has been basing its recent development approvals on who can generate the Port the most income, it’s disconcerting that, that might happen with Seaport Village. The actual land that the Seaport Village buildings sit on is so minuscule in comparison to all the major projects in development along the Port today. It would be vary easy to incorporate the some of Seaport Village into any master plan for the area. Doing this would avoid losing a treasure to San Diego citizens and a future historic site for generations to come. Not to mention saving several small business and hundreds of jobs.