By Kevin Wilkerson, PubClub.com San Diego Blogger
San Diego, it seems to me, is a city less of “can dos” and more one of “what can go wrongs.”
Right now, as I type, there’s a redevelopment project in the Midway District that is stuck in neutral like a car with a bad clutch. There have been at least three plans submitted to the city and all the city council has done is to get a “negotiating agreement” with a developer for a project called “Midway Rising.” There’s still no telling when – or if – there will be any shovels in the ground. Come on, just get it done! Build it and they will come, right?
I write this because it’s an area of the city that is ripe for fun. Just west of Old Town, it’s geographically desirable, near downtown, the beaches, the city’s midsection of several towns and public transportation (tho more on that later). The centerpiece is a new arena but officials seem set on making it the scale of Crypto.com arena (formerly called Staples Center) in Los Angeles rather than a more intimate venue for San Diego State basketball, mid-sized concerts and other activities more suited to San Diego.
The Midway District has the potential to be a great city attraction, a spot to tout to tourists, for locals to go out to restaurants and bars, and hotels and entertainment for visitors. It is certainly none of those things now.
When one thinks of “San Diego nightlife,” the Midway District hardly comes to mind. Because there is none. It’s small shopping centers and a mass confusion of streets that come together at weird angles.
Part of any plan should include a trolley line from Old Town but despite all its bravado talk, SANDAG seems incapable of building anything other than what it wants and not what the people need. One only needs to look at the much-ballyhooed Blue Line, which doesn’t even go to Sea World making it useless for tourists, as an example.
Sometimes, I wonder if city has the balls to really go for ambitious projects. Complacency seems to be winning out over completion. In sports parlance, that’s like taking a knee. The Chargers leave town and all the city and fans – the few loyal ones anyway – do is flip the finger at the team now. As well as at the city that took them, L.A. San Diego State builds a new stadium, not the city. Or the Chargers.
It’s time to start moving forward. Think big. After all, this is the city that built the convention center in 1989, doubled it in 2001 and followed that up with a beautiful downtown baseball stadium, Petco Park, in 2004. These two things transformed the Gaslamp Quarter from grimy to gleaming. Done right, the same think can happen in the Midway District.
There is some hope, tho. There is a massive project going up now behind the Embarcadero along San Diego Bay. But what about the development of Seaport Village that has been promised to us? There’s talk of even more transformation along the bay – which frankly it needs; I mean there’s only a couple of places to sit out and have a beer there for cryin’ out loud – but it, too, seems stalled.
So let’s get moving, San Diego! Our fun city can be even more fun with a developed Midway District and enhanced bay waterfront.