In some circles there is a sense that San Diego is missing an internationally recognizable calling card, as in a postcard-worthy — or in today’s vernacular, Instagrammable — destination that shouts, “Visit me.” The cylindrical tower with a cinched waist that is being touted as the high-flying replacement to a flat-by-comparison Seaport Village could change that.
That is, if California allows it.
A jaw-dropping symbol of change for the bayfront area that makes up downtown’s Central Embarcadero, the 500-foot tower is being heralded by developer 1HWY1 as the architectural focal point of its massive $2.4 billion Seaport San Diego project. Its location, where the bay ends and Pacific Highway begins, makes it geographically significant as well.
The full redevelopment effort encompasses 70 acres of land and water along Harbor Drive and is currently in the initial planning stages. Its program envisions a total of 2,050 hotel rooms spread across different properties, including 385 rooms in the base of the tower. Also proposed is a 170,822-square-foot aquarium, a 110,247-square-foot event center, 261,411 square feet of retail space, and 159,454 of office space reserved for ocean research-related enterprises.
In June, 1HWY1 submitted a formal project proposal to the Port of San Diego, which has permitting power over the tidelands. Staff at the agency are vetting the plan, which has evolved since the developer’s first successful bid to redevelop the site. Staff expect to present Seaport San Diego to Port Commissioners for preliminary approval in August or September.
The tower is, by design, a spectacle — San Diego’s version of the Space Needle.
“Nothing like this has been done on the water in California,” said Yehudi “Gaf” Gaffen, who runs 1HWY1.