Downtown may get its first 5-star hotel


San Diego could be getting its first five-star downtown hotel, plus a Whole Foods market, as part of a proposal to develop a key East Village site at 7th Avenue and Market Street.

Cisterra Development, which has just completed a new downtown headquarters office building for Sempra, has proposed building a 160-room Ritz Carlton and 58 Ritz-branded condos as part of a mixed-use project that would also include offices, 115 apartments, 32 affordable housing units and public parking.

That proposal, along with another proposed project planned for a second East Village site at Park Boulevard and Market Street, will be considered at a July 15 meeting of a committee composed of Civic San Diego board members. They will make a recommendation on whether the city should enter into negotiations with the project developers.

The Park Boulevard project, proposed by the Vancouver, Wash.-based Holland Partner Group, also envisions a mix of uses, including 341 apartments, of which 86 would be affordable, 51,700 square feet of office space and 22,900 square feet of retail space. The Ritz Carlton, rental units and condos will be part of a 39-story residential tower.

“We at Cisterra have great pride in what we’ve done in that neighborhood, having entered that market back in 2002 before the ballpark was even completed,” said Jason Wood, a project principal with Cisterra, which built the DiamondView office tower overlooking Petco Park. “Downtown San Diego needs a five-star hotel, and all other cities of any significance have at least one five-star hotel in downtown. We said this is the site to do it on, and Marriott (Ritz’s parent company) agreed with us.”

Next month’s Civic San Diego meeting will culminate a more than year-long process that began in December 2013 when Civic San Diego, a nonprofit corporation that oversees downtown development, sought proposals for the two East Village sites.

It is that process that is now being called into question by one of the competing developers, the Robert Green Company, which submitted proposals for the two downtown sites, which are both city-owned. As part of their submissions, developers were asked to include affordable housing and also what they would pay for the land. Those proceeds would go toward developing low-income housing elsewhere.

Green, in a letter last December to Civic San Diego and again in an interview on Tuesday, accused Civic San Diego of not adhering to its own decision-making process and giving its competitors an unfair advantage by allowing them to revise their original project proposals and change the purchase prices they offered for the city-owned land. He argued that the two projects, according to Civic San Diego, were flawed, while his was not.

The recommended projects, which ultimately will go to the full Civic San Diego board at the end of July and to the City Council most likely in September, were chosen by a selection committee that included representatives from Civic San Diego and the city.

Green’s biggest concerns relate to the 7th and Market site where he had proposed bringing a Virgin Hotel to downtown, as well as an Eataly food hall popularized by celebrity chef Mario Batali.

“Allowing others to change their submittals after our proposal was received is not only unfair in giving them more time to correct mistakes that should have disqualified them, it also makes it very possible for our proposed pricing and ideas to have been leaked to competitors, thereby influencing the revisions they are being allowed to make and compromising the integrity of the process,” wrote CEO Robert Green Jr.

He said on Tuesday that he plans to share his concerns with Civic San Diego board members, as well as City Council members “so that they don’t make a decision in a vacuum without knowing that these things occurred.” Green, whose company has teamed with Montage Hotels & Resorts to build an upscale 317-room Pendry Hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter, said he will consider filing a formal protest.

Civic San Diego President Reese Jarrett said Tuesday he believes the process was a fair one.

“This was a fair, diligent and comprehensive process conducted by the selection committee, and their recommendation will go through a public process,” he said.

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Source: DiscoverSD