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Two Developers Competing For Redevelopment Of Qualcomm Stadium Site

Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego

FS Investors, a private investor group led by partner Nick Stone, is moving ahead with community meetings to gain public approval for the proposed $1B SoccerCity development on the Qualcomm Stadium site in Mission Valley, but it has competition.

Presenting the group’s plan Wednesday at the Mission Valley Community Planning Group’s monthly meeting, Stone was bombarded with concerns about traffic, schools and the permitting process by residents, businesses and development competitors, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

This is the first of six public meetings planned citywide. Two will take place in Mission Valley, including an interactive session to get input from residents about what they want at the 34-acre San Diego River Park at the south end of the site. FS Investors is offering to develop the park as a gift to the city and Mission Valley residents and has proposed completing the park in advance of other projects so residents can start using it.

The La Jolla investment firm is trying to secure a Major League Soccer franchise for the city this year and complete a soccer stadium on the 166-acre, city-owned site by 2020. FS is proposing 4,800 housing units and several million square feet of commercial space, which would be developed over time. The soccer stadium would be designed to double as a football stadium for the San Diego State University Aztecs and host concerts and other special events.

Objections to the project’s proposed approval process came from three board members, including Sudberry Properties' Marco Sessa, who said documents suggest fewer environmental and entitlement requirements than required of other developers, and H.G. Fenton’s John LaRaia, who said he was concerned about the timing of traffic-control measures. Another board member wants the board to write a letter of opposition to other community planning groups, citing SoccerCity’s “trivialization” of the planning progress.

FS plans to launch a ballot initiative drive on March 15, which must gather at least 71,646 signatures from valid registered city voters to be placed on the ballot. The group will also ask the city council to approve the project, without having to wait for a vote in November, to meet the MLS deadline for awarding new franchises later this year.

Meanwhile, local developer Doug Manchester is working on a competing proposal to redevelop Qualcomm Stadium for professional soccer, football and the Aztecs, and build a new NBA sports arena and lower-density housing and commercial development that would result in less traffic than Stone’s plan, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. His consultant, Perry Dealy, an architect and developer, said preserving the old structure would save a lot of money.

Manchester sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell describing his plan for redeveloping the 50-year-old stadium. He also proposed it to the NFL as an alternative for the Raiders if their Las Vegas deal falls through or the Chargers if they decide to return to San Diego.

While Manchester’s concept is similar to FS's, he would spend $500M to upgrade the stadium, redesigning with 60,000 to 70,000 seats and other modern improvements. The FS plan would set aside 16 acres for a new football stadium, but would require a commitment by an NFL team within five years. Manchester's proposed new sports arena would replace the old Valley View Casino Center on Sports Arena Boulevard that hosts sports events and concerts.

Development of the remaining portion of the 166-acre site would provide 4,800 homes for SDSU students, faculty and staff and other local residents, a similar number to the SoccerCity proposal, but just 1M SF of office space, compared to the 2.4M SF proposed by FS, and 500k SF of retail amenities, rather than the 740k SF in the FS plan. Both plans call for hotels. Manchester's plan would also accommodate an SDSU West Campus, but would not donate the land, because Manchester contends the property’s value should be returned to the city.

Both proposals would be privately funded and assume the city’s $38.4M remaining debt on the old stadium, which costs the city $4.7M annually in payments for a 1997 stadium upgrade, and would eliminate the annual cost of maintenance.

Stone said Manchester’s plan would not meet MLS’s key requirement of a “soccer-specific stadium.”