The Citizens Coordinate for Century 3 (C-3) breakfast last week was supposed to be about building a new San Diego civic center. But with Navy Broadway Complex project spokesperson Perry Dealy in the room, the conversation took an inevitable turn. However, instead of the usual answers to the usual questions, Dealy surprised the audience by hinting at a policy change on the part of developer Doug Manchester: Maybe, just maybe, there’s more room for public uses on the property than had previously been acknowledged.
The comment caught C-3 members off-guard, because Dealy and Manchester have been for years staunchly defending their vision for the land, leased to Manchester by the U.S. Navy. Dealy elaborated on his remark in a later interview with CityBeat, focusing on the idea of building a grand entry to San Diego along Broadway, as first envisioned by urban planner John Nolen in 1926.
“I think there’s an opportunity for a civic gesture for those few blocks,” Dealy told CityBeat, referring to the corners of Broadway and Harbor Drive and Pacific Highway. “A ceremonial entrance for Broadway, Harbor and Pacific—it gives the opportunity for a great, grand visionary project to be located there.”
The current plan for the development lists one of those blocks as a public park, but the other one would sport a 550,000-square-foot office / hotel tower.
“Replacing that is an option,” Dealy said of the tower. “It would be a change in the plan. Say the city wanted to buy that, or some other public entity wanted to buy that. I’m not saying anybody’s offering—there’s an opportunity to be pursued.”
Technically, Manchester could only sell the rights to use the land, since the land itself is owned by the Navy.
CityBeat has been hearing rumors for months that Manchester’s been having trouble getting financing for the Navy Broadway Complex and that he’d been having trouble getting tenants for the space. Dealy would only concede that everyone is having trouble getting financing these days and that he and Manchester are waiting for a number of lawsuits entangling the project to be resolved.
Kim Kilkenny, a board member for Centre City Development Corp., the arm of the city’s Redevelopment Agency that reviewed the designs for the project, was at the meeting and found Dealy’s remarks interesting, but he also cautioned that a remark in a public meeting does not constitute a proposal.
Derek Danziger, spokesperson for CCDC, also seems to be looking for something more official. “There have been numerous discussions at an academic level about what would be appropriate uses at the site, ranging from civic to park space, but today those are nothing more than academic,” he said in an e-mail.
Ian Trowbridge, a hard-line opponent of Manchester’s plan and a candidate for the District 2 City Council seat, was also at the C-3 forum. He noted that the city of San Diego had proposed buying that very same plot of land two years ago and that Manchester turned them down. He was heartened by the new stance.
“I think it’s a new idea that is worth consideration,” he said. “I applaud Papa Doug and Perry Dealy for considering it.”