Horton Plaza Park, one of San Diego's most historic sites, will reopen May 4 after a $17 million makeover and enlargement, officials announced Monday.
In the works for five years, the 1.9-acre park at Fourth Avenue and Broadway will include the restored historic site, including its iconic fountain, and a new amphitheater, three retail kiosks and an interactive fountain.
"The expanded Horton Plaza Park is going to be a true civic treasure," Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a statement. "I am looking forward to celebrating the grand opening with the entire community."
The project was made possible by Westfield, which operates the adjacent Horton Plaza shopping center and demolished the former Robinson's-May department store in 2012. Westfield sold the site it back to the city in return for ending a profit-sharing agreement with the city related to the mall's parking garage. Westfield also has agreed to operate and manage the park for 25 years.
The project originally was budgeted at $8.5 million but doubled as design proceeded and delays ensued with the end of redevelopment. The state had to approve the higher budget and the city had to rebid the project when the original bidder's estimates exceeded the money available.
A longshoremen's strike and an explosion at a Chinese port, where the project's granite pavers were coming from, added to the latest delay from last fall's projected opening date, officials said.
"We're just excited about being able to get the project to an opening in spite of the delays," said Reese Jarrett, president of Civic San Diego, the city agency that oversees downtown.
David Graham, the city's deputy chief operating officer, said the park will do for San Diego what Bryant Park does for New York City -- serve as vibrant urban gathering place that bustles with day and night activities for downtown residents, workers and visitors alike.
"Partnering with Westfield really made this central civic space a gem, not just for downtown but for the entire region possible," Graham said.
Westfield spokeswoman Kim Brewer said a website, hortonplazapark.com, was launched Monday to let local groups and businesses sign up to perform, meet or hold receptions and events in the park. Nonprofits will be able to hold events on Tuesdays at no charge and at other times at 50 percent of the going rate for renting equipment and other setup expenses.
Brewer said Westfield has been in contact with the Balboa and Lyceum theater, the U.S. Grant and Westin hotels, Comic-Con and various businesses and organizations to start booking special events.
The opening weekend will include a dedication ceremony, grand opening open to the public and two weeks of "Plaza Play" and "Plaza Unplugged" times to play games and attend concerts and performances.
As many as 75 events will be scheduled the first year, building up to 200 required annually under Westfield's contract with the city.
To cover its costs, Westfield is renting out three kiosks to Starbucks, Bruxie waffles and Sloan's ice cream that will operate into evening hours. Movable tables and chairs will be sprinkled throughout the park and stored or secured after hours.
The San Diego Performing Arts League's ArtTix also expects to move back into the park where it operated its own ticket booth before park construction began. It's temporarily located on the fifth level of the shopping center, across from the food court.
Officials hope a busy calendar of events and activities plus the retailers will attract the general public to the park and deter loitering by the homeless that in previous years made Horton Plaza Park an undesirable place for other people to gather. Security cameras and city police patrols also are planned.