What’s happening with Horton Plaza? Now we know
Stockdale Capital Partners is now laying the groundwork to transform Horton Plaza into San Diego’s next big economic windfall: a modern office campus.
Downtown’s retail dead zone — Horton Plaza — is headed for permanent retirement.
Future owner Stockdale Capital Partners is now laying the groundwork to transform the 900,000-square-foot shopping center into San Diego’s next big economic windfall: a modern office campus.
The real estate investment firm, currently in escrow on the Westfield-owned property, will strip the 33-year-old mall of its longstanding retail roots in favor of an all-inclusive, upscale work-and-play environment, according to multiple local community stakeholders who have been briefed on the firm’s plans.
Stockdale Capital Partners declined to comment for this story. Westfield did not respond to a request for comment.
But the idea, which resembles a similar project the builder completed at its Galleria Corporate Center in Arizona, is to reshape the dated, oversized mall into the kind of unique office space desirable to the nation’s most renowned tech firms. In the process, the developer hopes to create thousands of high-paying jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars — if not billions — in yearly economic impact.
“What jumps out at me the most is how open (the design) is,” said Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation. “The environment feels very comfortable and very artistic.”
Cafferty, who has seen renderings of the proposed office park, describes a destination where Horton’s large anchor stores are repurposed as individual offices with high ceilings, lots of light and the large floor plans coveted by today’s youthful tech companies. Similarly, the plaza’s main thoroughfare will lose its meandering bridges and staircases in favor of cleaner lines and an inviting pathway leading from a lusher Horton Plaza park on Broadway to a completely re-skinned former Nordstrom building on G Street.
Ground floor retail is still part of the envisioned equation, though storefronts will primarily feature singular, San Diego-inspired eateries along with boutique health and fitness venues. And a day-to-night ambience, complete with an upgraded Lyceum Theater, is intended to be inviting for workers, downtown dwellers and Gaslamp visitors.
The product of builder Ernest W. Hahn, Horton Plaza opened in 1985 to national acclaim. The flashy-at-the-time shopping center, designed with a Disneyland-meets-Italian-hills vibe, was seen as a model of urban development. Today, however, the mall’s storefronts have been abandoned in recent years by retailers either struggling to adapt to an online-shopping world or dragged down by the center’s fortress-like feel. The shopping center’s decline was expedited by years of indecision on the part of owner-operator Westfield, which is now itself the property of French real estate firm Unibail-Rodamco.
“Horton Plaza is obviously critical to downtown. We need to have a vibrant space there,” said Betsy Brennan, president and CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership. “(Stockdale’s) plan is thoughtful. It allows the public to enjoy Horton Plaza, retains some wonderful retail space and high-end restaurant space, and gives downtown a whole new opportunity for Class A tech office space.”
Stockdale’s reinterpretation of the space, Cafferty and Brennan said, is a welcome improvement as it add jobs to a region that’s already been enriched by a smattering of residential towers.
“The partnership commissioned a study two years ago to show who is living downtown, what types of activity they like and where they want to live,” Brennan said. “It’s clear that there are many millennials who would like to live downtown, and do live downtown, but have to commute north to job centers. If we can get some of those high-paying tech jobs to downtown … people will able to live and work in the same place.”
It’s a lofty vision that depends on high-profile tenants committing to the project and can be only realized once Stockdale Capital closes the transaction. That process may hinge around a successful resolution to a lawsuit brought against Westfield in late May by disgruntled Horton Plaza tenant Jimbo’s.
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