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Public Benefits Define Midway Proposal

The Midway Sports & Entertainment District team’s plan / Image courtesy of Midway Sports & Entertainment District

San Diegans are facing a big choice on the future of the Midway-Pacific Highway community. Our plan, the Midway Sports & Entertainment District, is squaring off against a proposal from Brookfield Properties/ASM Global for the development of the 48-acre Sports Arena site. The decision by Mayor Kevin Faulconer, which is expected in the next few weeks, will have a profound impact on the community’s ability to advance the vision of the Midway Community Plan adopted two years ago. For many reasons, we believe our plan – a plan created for San Diego by San Diegans – and our team is the best choice.

First, our plan is anchored by a 12-acre public park. We started with a major open space idea as we sculpted our plan, and it has now rightfully emerged as the soul of the project. In contrast, the Brookfield/ASM Global plan has five dispersed acres of green space. Commercial development is a known traffic generator of any project. The Brookfield/ASM Global plan is anchored by 590,000 square feet of commercial in an already congested area. The Midway Sports & Entertainment District plan includes about 300,000 square feet of commercial.

Second, we describe a specific program for reinventing and modernizing the Sports Arena. It was developed by designers with extensive experience in arena design and development. In contrast, the competing proposal does not address the redevelopment of the Sports Arena.

Third, we are long-time San Diegans, and this project was built by us and our team members, with a specific focus on creating a great place for San Diegans. It is a plan that grows out of a history of the site, an understanding of the adjacent land uses – today and projected – and an appreciation of what makes our city and our lifestyle so special. Our goal to create a vibrant platform for San Diego’s love of fitness and healthy living could only thrive in this location.

Fourth, we lead with soccer. As Warren Smith, CEO of the San Diego Loyal is fond of saying, “San Diego is the Soccer Capital of North America … it just doesn’t know it yet.” Building a new home for SD Loyal, albeit a temporary one for seven to 10 years, plus the addition of other pop-up uses, will jumpstart the project and allow the community to engage with the Sports Arena site in a transformational way.

Fifth, our plan can be achieved without a public subsidy. No taxpayer dollars are required. The Midway Sports & Entertainment District plan includes prevailing wage for all construction trades and on-site affordable housing, both of which add significantly to overall development costs. Our team believes these community benefits can be delivered by structuring a public-private partnership with the city that appropriately balances the costs and rewards of the project.

Finally, the only way our plan or the competing one will be achieved is if the current 30-foot height limit is removed from the Midway area. The City Council is expected to put the question before voters this November, so we all will be asked if we want to remove the long-standing barrier to improving the Midway District. Our plan is anchored by a new centralized 12-acre park, which will help the ballot measure succeed rather than turning voters off by offering them a massive traffic-generating development with no local flavor.

Our plan is backed by a master developer, Toll Brothers, with decades of experience and an impressive balance sheet that answers any viability questions our competition raises. Saying Brookfield is more capable than Toll of making the project happen is like saying Jeff Bezos is more capable of buying a Maserati than Elon Musk. Maybe, but both can afford one.

A one-developer approach is great when building a shopping mall, high-rise or housing tract. But when the community plan lays out a different vision that calls for a bespoke village environment, assembling a collection of talented and experienced architects, developers and collaborators with different ideas and vision is what makes the Midway Sports & Entertainment District authentic and the right fit.

We’re offering San Diego so much more than viability. The best stuff about our plan is all the public benefits. A 12-acre park. Soccer. A music hall. A modernized arena. It’s the best plan because it was created for San Diego by San Diegans.

Frank Wolden is a principal of AVRP Skyport. Aruna Doddapaneni is senior vice president of BRIDGE Housing Corporation. Parent is executive director of Circulate San Diego.