A proposal to use Lane Field, one of San Diego's prime waterfront properties, for a $160-million government complex--including a new San Diego City Hall, central library and city government operations center--was made Monday by a local architectural firm.
But the unsolicited plan met a chilly reception from both the city manager's office, which is reviewing alternative sites for a new Civic Center, and the San Diego Unified Port District, the agency that controls Lane Field, site of the bayside baseball park used by the minor-league Padres from 1936 until 1959. Since then, the property has largely remained vacant and been used as a parking lot.
The approximately 9-acre parcel, at the foot of Broadway between Pacific Highway and Harbor Drive, has long been one of the most coveted along the bay and has generated various development proposals over the years.
25-Story City Hall
In fact, one of the principals in the plan unveiled Monday--Richard G. Wheeler--was a key member of a team that in 1979 attracted much attention when it pushed for construction of a Mexican-American Trade Center on Lane Field.
The latest plan is from Wheeler-Wimer Architects, an old-line San Diego company. The company's proposal envisions construction of a 550,000-square-foot, 25-story City Hall; an adjacent 340,000-square-foot, 15-story city operations center; a five-story, 370,000-square-foot central library and a parking garage for 2,000 vehicles.
The complex, which the architects have dubbed the Bayfront Center, would be built by an as-yet-unselected private developer and leased to the city at the cost of $7 million to $17.5 million a year, with the city having the option to buy the complex later.
Richard A. Blackman, managing partner of Wheeler-Wimer, said in an interview that his company "took this on ourselves" to make the proposal. And, even though Blackman said his firm hopes to have a role in the design of the government center, the real purpose behind the plan is to include Lane Field with three other sites being studied as possible locations for a new Civic Center complex.
"Lane Field is one of the most ideally located sites in the gateway to our beautiful city," reads a portion of the Bayfront Center's prospectus. "Lane Field's unique access to the bay and central business district, its proximity to public transit facilities and freeways, its location in the context of downtown redevelopment, and the ability of the city to influence the site's destiny from a massing standpoint require that the city no longer allow Lane Field to lie dormant.
"In light of its many attributes as focal point for the city, allowing such under-utilization of Lane Field is to continue to squander a major public asset."
Bid on Consulting Contract
Wheeler-Wimer was one of the architectural firms that bid on but did not win a consulting contract to help the city identify alternative locations for a new Civic Center complex, which would house a City Hall, central library, city operations facilities, City Council chambers and meeting rooms.
The Civic Center study, which is tentatively scheduled for completion by July 8, is examining three possible locations: an East Broadway parcel south of San Diego City College; the current city government complex on C Street, and property owned by San Diego Gas & Electric Co. at 12th and Imperial avenues. (However, SDG&E recently said it won't sell its land, because it would cost too much to duplicate its facilities on other property.)
"We were dismayed that the city wasn't looking at Lane Field . . . so we decided to dig into our own pockets" and prepare a proposal in hopes the city would pursue the idea, said Blackman, who would say only that the cost of the preparation was "substantial."
The city manager's office, however, said Monday that it has no plans to study the Lane Field concept. Maureen Stapleton, the deputy city manager heading the Civic Center study, said she had heard about the Wheeler-Wimer proposal but had not seen it. In any case, she said, the city manager's office has no plans to include Lane Field among the Civic Center site alternatives unless expressly directed to do so by the City Council.
The Civic Center study has been in the works for about five months, Stapleton said, and is almost finished.
"We have received direction from the council to study three sites . . . and that should be completed within the next couple of weeks," she said.
Paul Downey, spokesman for Mayor Maureen O'Connor, said the mayor's office was not familiar with details of the Lane Field plan.
No Port District Plans
Perhaps most important of all, the San Diego Unified Port District, the agency controlling Lane Field, said it has no plans to do anything on the property until both the Ernest Hahn-led Centre City Planning Committee and the Broadway Complex Coordinating Group finish their work.