Greening the Box

The San Diego Convention Center is among the most popular conference venues in the country yet has been in danger of losing its largest conventions due to size and support service limitations. Civitas and Fentress Architects won a competition to expand the center by a total of 730,000 sq. ft. at a cost of $550 million. Key to the winning scheme was Civitas’ proposal to develop a fully accessible, programmed, varied and sustainable 5 acre public park on to of the building. For years the community has complained that the Convention Center walled off the Bay – this proposal shows that it is possible to make the building even larger while greatly increasing the size of the building and public access and enjoyment of the waterfront.

The rooftop park will be accessible from the new waterfront promenade via a sloping walk, plus five elevator locations, one of which will be a one-stop elevator that goes from the public street directly to the top of the building 80 feet above with unrestricted views of downtown, East Village and the San Diego Bay with all of its military and recreational boating. A series of varied outdoor rooms and gardens will create a sequence and flow of spaces for activity and passive reflection, picnicking and viewing, programmed events and concerts for up to 3,000 people.

The most unique feature of the park is a bio-cleansing system that will create a saltgrass marsh and “treatment train” for 150,000 gallons of briny water that is pumped from the foundations of the existing center. This system will create the feeling so typical of the grassy bluffs of Torrey Pines or Point Loma, giving city dwellers and visitors the same dramatic experience of the coast but walkable from anywhere downtown.

The project received unanimous approval from the California Coastal Commission in 2013.

Client: San Diego Convention
Center Authority / City of San Diego
Partners: Fentress Architects; Rana Creek Design
Completed: Pending
Budget: $550 million
Location: San Diego