By David L. Coddon
While the focal point of the Gaslamp Quarter continues to be its glittery, tourist-heavy Fifth Avenue, a revitalization of Fourth Avenue is building momentum.
"It has a different vibe than Fifth Avenue, and it's getting a very distinct persona," says Jimmy Parker, executive director of the Gaslamp Quarter Association. "A lot of people in the Marina [District] love La Puerta, and Bice is one of the highest-rated restaurants in the city."
Parker credits Balboa Theatre's renaissance with being the catalyst for the evolution of Fourth Avenue. Slated for a 2015 opening, Horton Plaza Park is poised to make the next big impact.
The project, a private-public partnership between the Westfield Group and Civic San Diego (formerly the CCDC), envisions an active urban plaza that will include three pavilions for a variety of live entertainment. Proponents expect the 1.3-acre space between Third and Fourth on Broadway will eventually host 200 events a year.
For the growing number of downtown families, and for people who work in and near the Gaslamp, the new Horton Plaza Park could become what Pioneer Courthouse Square is for Portland, or what venerable Union Square is for San Francisco - meeting places to enjoy art shows, farmers markets and music. The spillover effect, too, could bring new consumers downtown and to the Fourth Avenue corridor in particular.
"If we get that new interest, people may want to see what urban can be," said Parker says.
To find signs of transformation underfoot, start at the corner of Fourth and G, the former home of Rock Bottom Brewery and soon (sometime in 2014) to be the site of Tin Roof, a restaurant and live-music club concept born in Nashville.
Up the street, the 6,000- square-foot The Shout! House dueling piano bar, which celebrates its 10-year anniversary in March (an impressive run among Gaslamp venues), is getting a sibling. The sister club "will have its own identity," says co-owner Bob Walin of The Garage a music-focused restaurant and bar set to open in April in the old Carriage Works building adjacent to Shout! House.
Meanwhile, there's a grandma waiting next door at Werewolf, the pub now occupying the former Gaijin Noodle House and run by the folks behind the legendary Waterfront Bar and Grill on Kettner Boulevard. "Our hostesses are literally grandmothers," says Werewolf's Rocky Nichols. But don't be misled - this is a happening place. "Fourth is going to be the new Fifth," says Nichols. "There's a lot of cool stuff going on."
Nightlife industry veteran Chris Martin, who helped open Stingaree way back when, is gearing up for an April opening of his AD Nightclub in the erstwhile Red Circle Bar location. The 4,300- square-foot space will house a boutique nightclub and lounge with a theatrical, Gothic-inspired motif and high-end service.
The name "AD" (as in "anno domini") signifies a rebirth, which Martin says makes his venue an ideal fit for the transitioning Fourth Avenue. He's confident the forthcoming Horton Plaza Park and its entertainment facilities will be good for business.
"The center of the Gaslamp universe is going to be Fourth and Broadway," Martin Says. "I think that park's going to completely shift the focus of the neighborhood.
401 G St., Gaslamp
The Shout! House
655 Fourth Ave., Gaslamp
655 Fourth Ave.,Gaslamp
627 Fourth Ave., Gaslamp
420 E St., Gaslamp