Feature Article - March 2015
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Waterfront Access

Clever Planning, Activities Help Draw Visitors

By Deborah L. Vence


On a completely different scale on the West Coast, in San Diego, the new $31 million North Embarcadero Waterfront Esplanade was unveiled in November of last year.

Jordan explained that the planning for the North Embarcadero project has been ongoing for the past 30-plus years, with the current incarnation that Civitas was involved in designing and implementing forged back in 2000 when the team of Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects of New York and Spurlock Poirer Landscape Architects of San Diego developed a schematic design for more than two miles of San Diego's waterfront. In 2007 a team comprised of Civitas, Project Design Consultants and Spurlock Poirer was selected to refine and implement the first phase of the North Embarcadero.

"Since its completion, the North Embarcadero has been well received by users and tourists," he said. "The questions that we hear most often are, "What took so long?" and "When will the next phase be completed?"

But, "Overall, people are most excited about finally having a world-class waterfront. For so many years their waterfront was a series of roadways and parking lots. They finally have a waterfront that they can be proud of and bring their friends and family down to enjoy the amazing views," Jordan said.

San Diego's new waterfront development forms part of a revitalized gateway to the city's downtown center and establishes an energized destination within a rapidly developing area of the city. Civitas helped come up with an existing master plan to develop an urban promenade and a series of parks alongside a working waterfront that is home to cruise ships, fishing operations and museums.

The Civitas design reclaims space that was occupied previously by streets and parking lots by reordering the hierarchy of functions so that the first 108 feet of land that is adjacent to the bay is devoted to pedestrian activity, including a 30-foot-wide promenade, soft-surface running trail and series of formal garden rooms with native jacaranda groves to buffer against the relocated Harbor Drive. In addition, an 8-foot-wide water quality band interlaces with the landscape and provides visible conveyance and treatment of storm water to the harbor's edge.

The development also boasts a landscape of trees, paths and plazas, as well as ticket kiosks, shade pavilions, restrooms and a café, which was designed by artist Pae White. To boot, custom lighting, graphics and furnishings that recall the "craft and heft of the maritime industries" represent the site's past and the city's plans for an enduring future.