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An editor once told me that the most important part of any story is where you tell the reader why they should care. So my apologies to that editor, and you readers, particularly “Robert E. Lee,” who takes issue with my discussion of the proposed 700 W. Broadway project when the design plans were revealed way back on Tuesday.

My initial response is, well, the building isn’t built yet, is it?

But really, here’s why I think anyone who lives or works downtown, or ever has the occasion to gaze upon the downtown skyline, should care:

  • Any tall building constructed near an airport should be thoroughly vetted. The Sunroad Centrum building near Montgomery Field comes to mind. The Irvine Co.’s proposed project also adjoins a major mass transit corridor, which should also be of ample consideration.
  • The proposed high-rise will become part of the downtown skyline. That skyline is marketable, as in postcards, posters, and aerial shots of downtown San Diego shown on TV and in movies.
  • The CCDC has final approval of the design for the project. Public input will be considered. When was the last time you had a say in what downtown San Diego looks like?

Those who have taken a look at the project website already have some strong reactions. “Downtown Resident” is disappointed, calling the building a “plain, vanilla, box.”

“Dick,” meanwhile, disagrees, saying the proposed structure is “simply beautiful. I believe it will be a great addition to the lower Broadway/North Embarcadero area.”

One reader, Christopher Hall, takes issues with the history of Newport Beach-based The Irvine Co. He says it’s not enough to talk design:

Please, oh please do not let this important discussion devolve into a pathetic discussion of architecture!

It’s true that The Irvine Co. is one of the top landowners in the state, and is best known in some parts, particularly Orange County, for its master-planned communities. Hoovers has a good description of the company and its history here.

The Irvine Co. isn’t exactly new to the San Diego market. Its first acquisition here was more than two decades ago, and its local holdings include six apartment complexes and, as mentioned in my last post, some of downtown’s most prominent office high-rises. Beyond One America Plaza, Symphony Towers, Wells Fargo Plaza, the company also lays claim to 225 Broadway, 101 West Broadway and 501 West Broadway.

What do you think of the look of downtown San Diego? Does it have a unifying architectural theme? Are matters of aesthetics even an important part of the planning discussion?

JENNIFER McENTEE

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