‘Discover Midway’ project centers around housing for all income levels, acres of parks and green space and a reimagined sports arena.
On a sunny August day more than a year ago, a small crowd of politicians and real estate professionals gathered at San Diego’s Pechanga Arena to celebrate what then-Mayor Kevin Faulconer called a “great day” for the city.
Faulconer said San Diego had searched worldwide for the best team to remake the 48 acres the city owns around the arena in the Midway District and had chosen prolific real estate developer Brookfield Properties to turn the expansive parking lot into a thriving community “second to none.”
The ballyhooed public-private partnership cratered 10 months later when a state agency said the city was not in a position to dispose of the land.
Today there’s a new mayoral administration, the city and state are finally in lockstep and the Midway District parcels are back on the market. And Brookfield, undeterred by the setbacks, is ready to make another offer.
Brookfield and its partners have reworked their concept for a mixed-use development called “Discover Midway.” The expanded team now includes two experienced affordable-housing developers and retains ASM Global, the current operator of Pechanga Arena. The project, which includes a commitment to set aside at least 25 percent of housing units for lower-income families, centers around the Point Loma-adjacent region’s past, present and future.
“The thought behind this is that we are discovering what’s there today — Kobey’s [Swap Meet] and all the other local business, the makers district and the history of the area — as well as discovering what the community wants,” said Jessica Jones, a senior director at Brookfield Properties. “And, of course, [we are] discovering what’s to come and creating a true mixed-use destination with an emphasis on adding meaningful community benefits, additional housing for all income levels, active parks and green space and a reimagined sports arena for all San Diegans.”
There are no specifics, no renderings and none of the pomp and circumstance of the previous go-around. Some of that will come as the Discover Midway group works to fine-tune its bid, which is due Dec. 3.
Brookfield, which has 20 properties across the county, is crafting the overall vision and would be responsible for building the market-rate housing units, shops, restaurants, office space and parks. The plan calls for “green” buildings, bike- and pedestrian-friendly roads and new transit connections.
Affordable-housing partners Affirmed Housing and National Community Renaissance, or National CORE — each three decades old and operating thousands of units — would erect and run the neighborhood’s subsidized units. They have promised high-quality homes for people making 30 percent to 60 percent of the area’s median income as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as services to improve people’s financial footing.
Amenities such as community and recreation facilities and bike lockers would be shared across the project, meaning all residents could enjoy the same perks, according to Affirmed Executive Vice President Jimmy Silverwood and National CORE Vice President John Seymour.
“Between Affirmed and National CORE, our developments tend be the nicest on the block,” Silverwood said. “It is not unique for our properties to be mistaken with market-rate luxury apartments.”
ASM Global, whose parent company, AEG, created the Staples Center-anchored L.A. Live sports and entertainment district in Los Angeles, would be tasked with substantially improving or rebuilding the San Diego sports arena. Regardless of the approach, it will be a world-class venue with an all-new, state-of-the-art guest experience, said ASM Executive Vice President Chuck Steedman.
“We have assembled people that are best in class — in the nation and the world — at what they do,” Steedman said of the Discover Midway team. “This is a group of people that has the experience, the talent, the subject-matter experts ... to come together and deliver for San Diego what no one else can.”
Presumably, with the addition of more housing options, the project will offer more than the 2,100 units previously proposed. The site allows for a total of 2,112 units, though a developer can build up to 4,224 if its affordable units are between 600 and 800 square feet.
The city issued a notice of availability for the property Oct. 4. At least two other groups are preparing to respond.
Toll Bros., which also participated in the city’s previous solicitation process, has a rebranded vision that is to be unveiled at an event Sunday, Oct. 17. A third group led by The ConAm Group, an apartment builder and property management company, recently told the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group that it, too, would respond to the city’s notice.
Jones, the Brookfield director, said, “I think we’re even more excited now that we’ve had the opportunity to, this last 12 months, work with the community to further enhance our original bid.”
The competition likely will play out at City Council hearings in the second half of 2022, after the city negotiates with all qualified respondents.