“We had an industry day on Nov. 4 expecting 40 companies and 50 people, and we got 96 companies and 208 people,” said Greg Geisen, director of facilities plans at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) U.S. Navy. “We got folks flying in from all over, some of the biggest, top-10 level developers in the nation. We were very pleased with the outcome.”
The approximately 70-acre Naval complex at 4301 Pacific Highway occupies approximately 1.2 million square feet in 10 buildings including about 4,000 parking spaces.
But Geisen noted the World War II-era, warehouse-style complex, which was built to manufacture planes, is outdated in many ways today.
“We do not utilize the full volume of this facility, and are spread out real thin,” said Geisen. “It’s a very inefficient way to operate. What we’re saying is very simple: We have 70 million square feet of space on 70 acres of land close to downtown San Diego and transit centers. We’d like to find a way to put in new facilities within that massive footprint, and leverage the land to pay for that.”
“Is there something that can be done to do that?,” said Geisen of what the Navy is asking of the real estate development industry, including architects and engineers, about possible redevelopment of Naval Base Point Loma Old Town Complex in San Diego’s Midway District.
There are options in redeveloping the Navy’s Old Town SPAWAR complex.
“It may take the form of a land swap, which means, I have a piece of land, you give me a new building, and I’ll give you a 50-, 75- or 99-year lease,” said Geisen. “It would be a public-private partnership.”
Cathy Kenton, chair of the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group, said the group looks favorably on the Navy’s plans.
“The Planning Group is excited about the possibilities of redeveloping the Navy’s Old Town Complex,” Kenton said. “The Navy is proving to be a good neighbor within the community, and we’re looking forward to learning more as their plans develop.”
SPAWAR’s mission on behalf of the Navy is to provide the fleet with networking communications, command and control and information system reconnaissance. “We are the nervous system,” said Geisen of the role of SPAWAR, which has worldwide outlets and a $7 billion annual budget.
Geisen added the Navy needs to modernize its Old Town complex to keep pace with recruitment of candidates in a very competitive jobs market.
“There are 10,000 people working for SPAWAR, and 5,000 of them are here in San Diego, 2,000 in Old Town,” he said. “We’re competing with Qualcomm, AOL, and Amazon for high-tech grads and young engineers coming out of places like UC San Diego. Probably not a lot of them want to work in a World War II warehouse. It’s hard to be attractive when your facilities are subpar.”
Where things go from here is that those companies who attended the recent “open house” at the Naval complex have until Jan. 19 to submit a written interest, said Geisen.
“We don’t know what we’re going to see,” he said adding,”But we’re not expecting them to submit blueprints giving away their visions.”
The Navy spokesperson said the question to be answered is, “Can we find a way to fulfill the Navy’s mission, which requires us to have a modern, safe and secure facility with this real estate-type of exchange?”