The original Convention Center opened in 1989 and was designed by a joint venture between Deems, Lewis & Partners (San Diego), Arthur Erikson Associates (Los Angeles) and Loschky, Marquardt & Nesholm Architects (Seattle).  The bayside facility offered 1.8 million total gross square feet (sf).

The first expansion opened in 2001 and increased the size of the Convention Center to 2.6 million sf. It was designed by Tucker Sadler & Associates in association with Boston-based HNTB architect Don Grinberg under a design-build contract with Turner Construction.

In May 2009, a “Marketing, Feasibility & Impact Analysis for the Proposed San Diego Convention Center Expansion,” was conducted by Economic Research Associates.  It stated the addition of 225,000 sf of contiguous exhibit space could result in capturing 89% of the “lost business events” that would be able to fit within such an expansion. The Convention Center could host 25 additional primary events and 25 additional secondary events, thereby generating incremental job growth, economic impact, and tax revenues.

Based on the Mayor's Citizens Task Force on the San Diego Convention Center Project's recommendation, the San Diego Convention Center Corporation acquired a lease/option on the 6.86-acres of Port land adjacent and westerly of the existing center for the purpose of expanding the existing 2.6 million square foot Convention Center. The project will include approximately 1 million sf of additional exhibition, meeting, and support space, a 250-500 room hotel, and a water transportation center. The document governing the lease and option is the Port’s Amended, Restated, and Combined Lease to the San Diego Convention Center Corporation.

Project Elements

  • Convention Center Expansion;
  • Modifications to Exhibit Hall H;
  • Expansion Hotel (to be included in the Port Master Plan Amendment and environmental documentation but to be developed separately);
  • Retail, including Water Transportation Center
  • Convention Way; and
  • Pedestrian Promenade.

Project Objectives & Requirements

The project objectives are to achieve the Convention Center’s programming goals in an outstanding architectural expression and in the most cost effective manner practicable while preserving and enhancing the beauty and utility of the public realm spaces surrounding the expansion site.

Convention Center Program:
  • Exhibition Space: Add 225,000 sf to 250,000 sf, sub-dividable space with 30-foot clear ceilings that connects to the existing Phase 2 exhibit halls with direct access and the ability to accommodate a single trade show.
  • Meeting Rooms: Add 100,000 sf new; i.e., net of any space lost while integrating the expansion, located on a single level with a ceiling height of 27 feet.
  • Multi-Purpose/Ballroom: Add 80,000 sf divisible into approximately 6 smaller rooms and with a ceiling height of 35 feet.
  • Total New Leasable Area:  405,000 sf to 430,000 sf.
  • Support area (circulation, pre-function, food service, exiting, vertical circulation, restrooms, storage, staging, support, AN, electric & mechanical rooms, other B.O.H) as required, including kitchen of approximately 13,000 – 17,000 sf adjacent to the ballroom.A net increase of 22 truck docks to serve the expansion.
  • Freight Elevators: approximately 8 large, trade show elevators for the expansion.
  • Modifications to Exhibit Hall H—explore opportunities to “square-off” Exhibit Hall H to create more usable exhibition space.

Expansion Hotel Program:
  • Between 250 and 500 guest rooms.
  • Parking provided by a combination of an on-site parking garage and parking on nearby, Port-owned parking facilities beneath Phase I of the existing Convention Center or at 8th Avenue and East Harbor Drive.
  • Include banquet and conference rooms, ballroom, restaurants, cocktail lounges, approximately 50,000 square feet of retail shops, and related development.The expansion hotel location is not restricted to the former “Spinnaker” site; it may be located elsewhere on the expansion site or the existing Convention Center site, including the triangular Plaza Park, subject to an amendment of the existing Port Master Plan and other relevant agreements.

Qualitative Objectives:
  • Expand the Convention Center and meet the building program recommendation of Economic Research Associates;
  • Provide visitor-serving retail within the project boundaries;
  • Expand in a functional manner that maximizes the use of existing resources and enhances the broader objectives of the Downtown San Diego urban design and development strategies;
  • Enhance and improve the pedestrian experience/access from the city to the bayfront;
  • Activate and invigorate the waterfront promenade,
  • Preserve the Park Boulevard view corridor from the city's downtown;Re-establish the Convention Center's view terrace along the bayfront;
  • Activate and enhance the views from the bay to the Convention Center;
  • Strengthen the connection between downtown and the bay at 4th Avenue;
  • Preserve and enhance public open spaces;
  • Enhance public access to the bay;
  • Improve pedestrian connectivity to existing adjacent development;
  • Improve vehicular and freight truck circulation; and
  • Maintain pedestrian safety.

Design Considerations:
  • Freight trucks and other support vehicles for the Convention Center should be diverted off Convention Way, thereby allowing that public roadway to be reserved for access to and from Embarcadero Marina Park South and other bayfront uses;
  • Realignment of Convention Way;
  • A pedestrian bridge over Harbor Drive should be considered to enhance connectivity between the project and bayfront to Downtown;
  • Preservation of views in addition to the Park Boulevard corridor;
  • Explore opportunities to include portions of expansion program on land immediately adjacent to the expansion site subject to acquisition of such land and appropriate amendments to the Port Master Plan and other relevant agreements;
  • Inclusion of viable and bayfront-activating retail; and
  • A Water Transportation Center.

Phase 3 Expansion Characteristics:
  • Self-sufficiency: The expansion will require its own full-service kitchen of 13,000 – 17,000 sf.
  • Loading access – The expansion will require 22 new loading docks, net of any docks lost while integrating the expansion with the existing Convention Center; and Mechanical – the expansion will require its own, free-standing mechanical systems.
  • Functionality: Relationship between existing and new facilities; ability to serve a single tenant event, or multiple simultaneous events; freight move-in and move-out efficiency; balanced relationships among exhibition, ballroom and meeting spaces; and accommodation of appropriate service and support areas.
  • Interface with existing facility: Ability to build the expansion while maintaining on-going operations in the existing Convention Center including consideration to noise; access, loading; access, vehicular; and access, pedestrian.
  • Architecture: Potential to add to the signature value of the Convention Center's positive image; and improve the landmark quality of the Convention Center as seen from the bayfront and City of Coronado.
  • Operational requirements during construction: Existing Convention Center must remain open; avoidance of noise disruption; and traffic control and circulation.

Energy Savings and Sustainable Design:
The design must, at a minimum, meet the LEED Silver Certification level, consistent with our current facility that is LEED Silver Certified. Other suggestions given by the public to the Mayor’s Citizen Task Force include the following:

  • Incorporation of natural light
  • Use of "gray" water
  • Incorporation of an on-site water treatment system
  • Incorporation of photo voltaic system
  • Incorporation of a "green" roof
  • Use of high performance glazing systems
  • Incorporation of recyclable materials
  • Minimize domestic water demand from city system
  • Use of high efficient mechanical systems
  • Use of sensors to adjust lighting levels
  • Selection of high efficiency low energy use light fixtures

Public Realm Requirements:
In addition to the public input already gathered by the Mayor’s Citizen Task Force, the public was invited to help establish the project goals at two forums in July. There will be more opportunities for public input once the design team is selected, including during preparation of the Environmental Impact Report.  The following environmental guidelines are included in the ARC Lease and relate to the relationship between the project and public realm spaces:

  • Minimize adverse impacts resulting from bulk, massing and scale of the expansion and expansion hotel;
  • Create and maintain market viability of the project’s retail along the waterfront;
  • Maximize opportunities to co-locate pedestrian and vehicular access to Embarcadero Marina Park South and maintain the quality of that access;
  • Create and maintain viable public access to the expansion hotel site; and
  • Maximize the market viability of the expansion hotel as an independent component of the project.

The Final Report of the Mayor’s Citizen Task Force (page 34) contained the following statement:

“The Mayor’s charge to the Task Force included identifying key issues related to public access, resource conservation and waterfront enhancements. The role of the Task Force has not been to review design and planning issues; however, brief presentations have been made to illustrate site capacity and potential massing of an expansion which have identified some overall design subjects of concern. The Task Force recognizes the impact of a Phase 3 expansion on the public realm surrounding the current Convention Center is important to the Citizens of San Diego and influences their City’s relationship to the bay. It is the view of the Task Force, that in order to respect and improve public access and environmental conditions at the waterfront, urban design, sustainability and environmental guidelines should be adopted for the design of Phase 3.”

In addition, the report identified the following public realm goals:

  • Public access, including pedestrian access from the Gaslamp District across the railroad tracks and Harbor Drive;
  • Resource conservation; and
  • Waterfront enhancements such as enhanced pedestrian safety and views of the Convention Center by screening the current loading docks, separating service vehicles from pedestrians in order to provide a the pedestrian experience, and public-serving amenities along the bayside promenade.
On July 14th and 17th of 2010, the SDCCC hosted two public information forums regarding the planning and approval process.  The purpose of the forums was to: inform the public about the details of the planning and approval process including the history of the proposed expansion, summary of the Mayor’s Task Force findings, roles of the public agencies involved, upcoming planning and approval phases, milestone events, and future regulatory decisions; and to solicit public input on urban design and planning principles surrounding the proposed expansion in order to inform the design team selection process.

The following is a summary of the input received from the public during the information forums:

  • Public access: Enhance intuitive and functional access to the bayfront; project should be easily penetrated by members of the public moving to and from the bayfront; maintain easy lateral circulation along bayfront; enhance access to Embarcadero Marina Park South; mitigate for loss of existing park space by creating new public accessible park spaces, improving programming and public utility of existing park space and creating opportunities for public venues and spaces within the project. Create and improve wayfinding systems to parks and other amenities on the bayfront; and improve access for special needs populations.
  • Public Realm Space: Protect and enhance public realm space; improve programming and use of Embarcadero Marina Park South for Summer Pops, other concerts, food and beverage festivals and art shows and convention receptions. Create active programming of public realm space; provide benches for pedestrians to stop and enjoy the bayfront; and create and explore opportunities for public realm spaces with the project boundaries
  • Urban Form: Avoid overwhelming public realm spaces by massive and tall structures; minimize shading of public realm spaces; avoid contributing to or exacerbating “walling off” of the waterfront and separating the bayfront from downtown; and preserve and enhance existing views.

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