Expect Big Changes for San Diego's Seaport Village

Seaport Village: A Brief History

Imagine a place where you can enjoy the best of both worlds; the laid-back beauty of an idyllic seaside village with the excitement of a bustling metropolitan city. Set against the backdrop of serene sailboats, lush trees and calm blue waters, Seaport Village has been a staple in downtown San Diego since 1980, attracting both tourists and locals alike for nearly 40 years.


This picturesque micro-village rests on 14 acres of scenic waterfront property and houses more than 45 one-of-a-kind shops, including apparel, eclectic toys and souvenirs, and practically any other knickknack you can think of. Among the variety in all the stores, there’s more to see (and hear) once you step outside: a lagoon, a carousel, a marina, live music and much more.

We can trace the roots of Seaport Village back to 1782. The complex itself was built on reclaimed land over the “Punta de los Muertos,” or Point of the Dead, the site where a Spanish expedition buried the remains of those who had perished after developing scurvy. The area was also used as a railroad yard that served as a major transshipment point for goods and materials being distributed to the city.

Today, Seaport Village is laid out like a pirate’s treasure map. Visitors often find themselves meandering through the winding cobblestone walkways and Spanish-style plazas, eventually reaching the promenade and getting a stunning view of the Coronado Bay Bridge. There, you’ll find an assortment of magicians, caricature artists, and fortune tellers who put on occasional performances for passersby. The nearby Embarcadero Marina Park has bike trails and picnic spots and not to mention, offers some of the best kite flying in San Diego County.

Seaport Village is nestled between the historic USS Midway Aircraft Carrier and the San Diego Convention Center. It is walking distance from several other sites and attractions in San Diego County, making it easy to maximize your time exploring the Seaport Village shops. You can combine visiting the Embarcadero, the Children’s Museum, the Star of India and HMS Surprise within one visit to Seaport Village.

Despite all of this, the iconic tourist destination is in dire need of remodeling. Following the opening of Petco Park in 2004 and The Central Library in 2010 in East Village, local architects and developers are banding together to redesign another key part of downtown San Diego: the waterfront.

Seaport Village has always been more of an entertainment venue than a traditional shopping center. And on the table is a $1.2 billion dollar project proposal that will completely alter the way visitors experience the space. This property is prime for an update and is regarded as a very valuable commercial San Diego real estate venture. As of March 13, 2018, the full new plans for Seaport Village have been unveiled.

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Bringing Seaport Village Back to Life

Spearheading the project is San Diego-based developer, Yehudi Gaffen, whose company, Protea Waterfront Development, won the Port of San Diego’s competition in 2016 to redevelop the San Diego Waterfront. Gaffen’s plans include building new hotels and offices, erecting an observation tower and a science facility, adding 30 acres of parks and open spaces, and constructing an aquarium designed by seasoned architect Bjarke Ingels. The new San Diego Waterfront will include high-end retail shops, upscale restaurants and will be surrounded by a public beach. The idea, Gaffen says, is for it to be uniquely “San Diego.” He adds, “I don’t think there’s a better site — I’d say in the world — than what we’re dealing with right here.”

The Seaport San Diego Project is going to completely transform the waterfront property with mixed-use buildings that take advantage of space that’s long been underutilized. Areas that are currently cluttered with parking lots, outdated tourist attractions, and a fish-processing facility will be converted into a development that connects multiple sites together and spans nearly 70 acres.

Although plans for reconstruction are already underway, this project has attracted a considerable amount of skepticism from those who revel in the old school charm and nostalgia of the current style. Some visitors believe that Seaport Village’s oldness is what gives it character. Remove the duck pond, the courtyards, and the quirky cottage-style waterfront shopping, and you lose that “secret sauce” that made it such a popular destination.

On the contrary, Frank Wolden, who is the architect and mastermind behind the redesign, claims the intent is not to strip the historical landmark of its charm, but to build a more urbanistic, big-city version centered around those same kinds of experiences for tourists and locals alike in San Diego County.

Gaffen even said that following the Port District approval of Protea’s project, they received an outpouring of support from downtown residents, fishermen, tenants, and various other community members who are excited to see what the changes will bring.

Ultimately, the project aims to accurately embody the San Diego and California lifestyle and will strive to capture what locals and tourists love about the city.

Topics: San Diego