Downtown San Diego, also referred to as Centre City, is the city center of San Diego, California. Founded in 1850, downtown San Diego serves as the cultural, financial center and central business district of San Diego County.
The city of San Diego was originally focused in Old Town near the Presidio, several miles north of current Downtown. The location was not ideal because it was several miles from navigable water. In 1849 Lt. Andrew B. Gray, a surveyor working with the boundary commission to establish the boundaries of the new state of California, suggested that an area closer to San Diego Bay would be a better location for a city because it would be better for trade. He proposed the idea to William Heath Davis, who recruited four other investors. The partners under Davis's leadership purchased 160 acres (65 ha) of land in what is now Downtown San Diego. They laid out a street plan for New Town and built a wharf and warehouse. Several people built houses there, including the still-standing William Heath Davis House, now a museum. John Judson Ames wrote a prospectus for a newspaper, the San Diego Herald in December of 1850, soliciting advertisements and subscriptions from the towns-people; the first issue was published on May 29, 1851. However, New Town did not do well due to a lack of fresh water, a financial depression in 1851, and opposition from the established settlements in Old Town and La Playa.
In 1867, Alonzo Horton purchased 800 acres (320 ha) of pueblo lands in the current Downtown area, and in 1869 he added Davis’s 160 acres (65 ha) to his holdings; the area was referred to as the Horton Addition. Davis’s wharf had fallen to pieces by then, but Horton realized the area was still ideal for a harbor. He built a new wharf at the end of Fifth Avenue in 1869. He vigorously sold property and gave away land to promote development of the area, fueling the first of San Diego’s many real estate speculation booms. People flocked to the area, known as New Town, because of its better access to shipping. In 1871 government records were moved to a new county courthouse in New Town. By the 1880s New Town had totally eclipsed Old Town (as it is called to this day) as the heart of the growing city.
In 1885 the transcontinental railroad reached San Diego. The Santa Fe railway station opened downtown in 1887. (That station was replaced in 1915 by the Downtown landmark Santa Fe Depot which is still in use). In 1886 the city’s first electric lights and first streetcars were established in New Town. In 1912 the Spreckels Theater opened downtown, the first modern commercial playhouse west of the Mississippi. A new commercial pier, the Broadway Pier, was built by the city in 1913.
In the 1910s, Downtown became one of the many San Diego neighborhoods connected by the Class 1 streetcars and an extensive San Diego public transit system that was spurred by the Panama-California Exposition of 1915 and built by John D. Spreckels. These streetcars became a fixture of the neighborhood until their retirement in 1939.
In 1964 the multi-story City Hall and Community Concourse were dedicated on a four-block-square property at 202 C Street. Recent mayors and city councils have discussed building a replacement city hall, but no replacement plan has been approved.
In the 1960s, Centre City began to fall into a state of disrepair and disrepute. Major businesses and stores moved from downtown to suburban shopping malls. Downtown became known as a hangout for homeless people and sailors on liberty. Tattoo parlors, bars, and strip clubs were predominant forms of business. Trash littered the Gaslamp Quarter, many 19th century Victorian houses were rundown, and there were few buildings of significant size (the tallest building at the time was fourteen stories, the locally famous El Cortez Apartment Hotel). Despite this, low- and mid-rise buildings were beginning construction.
In 1975, redevelopment plans were created for Downtown. In 1985, Downtown underwent more redevelopment with the completion of Horton Plaza, the Gaslamp Quarter revival, and the completion of the San Diego Convention Center. Petco Park, a baseball ballpark used by the San Diego Padres, opened in 2004.
Arts & Culture:
The Civic Theatre in the Community Concourse is the home of the San Diego Opera as well as traveling shows. The San Diego Symphony is headquartered at Copley Symphony Hall, a renovated movie palace on 7th Avenue originally built in 1929 as the Fox Theater. The Spreckels Theater at 1st and Broadway, in continuous operation since 1912, hosts local and traveling performances and productions. The Balboa Theatre, built in 1924, re-opened in 2008 after extensive renovations as a venue for live performances and concerts. Both the Spreckles and the Balboa theaters are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Other downtown theaters include the Lyceum in Horton Plaza, which hosts the San Diego Repertory Theatre as well as concerts and art shows, and the Sledgehammer Theater. The Museum of Contemporary Art is also located in downtown San Diego which has displayed work across a collection of media since 1950. Tourist Attractions:
The Columbia (waterfront) neighborhood of downtown hosts the Midway aircraft carrier museum ship, as well as the eight ships and boats of the San Diego Maritime Museum, headlined by the Star of India.
The San Diego Convention Center and Petco Park are located downtown.
The Horton Plaza and Seaport Village shopping and dining complexes attract visitors as well as local residents.
More than 200 cruise ships a year call at the cruise ship terminal. A passenger ferry connects downtown San Diego with Coronado, and San Diego Bay harbor tours depart from Harbor Drive.
Columbia is a neighborhood located in Downtown San Diego, California. The neighborhood is largely commercial, however there are a large number of highrise condominium buildings under construction. The Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum and the Maritime Museum are located in this neighborhood.
Columbia is located south of Little Italy, north of the Marina District, and west of Core and the Horton District. This district is bordered by Ash Street to the north, F Street to the south, Union Street to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
The Santa Fe Depot is served by the Trolley, the Coaster and the Pacific Surfliner.
The Core district is the central business district in Downtown San Diego. This district is located in the center of the city; it is bordered to the north by Cortez Hill, to the northwest by Little Italy, to the south by the Horton District and Gaslamp Quarter, to the east by East Village and to the west by Columbia district.
Cortez Hill is located south of Bankers' Hill, north of the Core District, east of Little Italy and west by Balboa Park. This district is bordered by Interstate 5 to the north, Ash Street/A Street to the south, 11th Avenue/SR 163 to the east and Front Street to the west.
Named after the historic El Cortez Hotel, this district is one of San Diego's oldest residential neighborhoods. North of downtown's Core and south of I-5 between Tenth Avenue and Union Street, the 111- acre Cortez Hill is two neighborhoods in one. East of Sixth Avenue rises downtown's highest land mass, the hill dominated by the El Cortez Condominium (formerly El Cortez Hotel). West of Sixth Avenue the flatter area is known as Cortez West. The hill has drawn residents for over a century, and some of the original Victorian style dwellings of the first settlers are still present.
In 1992, the Redevelopment Agency envisioned reviving this district by further developing the hill for residential use, and encouraging a mix of residential and commercial infill. Schools, churches and a pedestrian-friendly environment now characterize the western portion of Cortez Hill. Commercial shops and sidewalk cafes line Fifth and Sixth Avenues, and Ash Street provides a gateway to the waterfront. As the highest land mass in the Centre City Community Planning area, Cortez Hill boasts views of urban San Diego, Balboa Park, the bay and Pacific Ocean. East Village:
It is the largest urban neighborhood in downtown San Diego. It is located east of the Gaslamp Quarter and southeast of the Core district and Cortez Hill in downtown San Diego. East Village encompasses 130 blocks between Seventh Avenue east to 18th Street. The thriving urban enclave is home to more than 700 businesses including restaurants, hotels, and art galleries.
The East Village Business Improvement District is managed by The East Village Association, Inc. (EVA), a nonprofit corporation 501c3. As a result of redevelopment, and particularly after the opening of Petco Park in 2004, the area has become known for upscale restaurants and trendy shops. The neighborhood is now a hub of construction including condominium projects and other public spaces, including the recently completed Central Library. The $185 million project, designed by architect Rob Quigley, officially opened September 30, 2013.
When development of the area began in the 1860s, the area currently known as the Gaslamp Quarter was known as New Town, in contrast to Old Town, which was the original Spanish colonial settlement of San Diego. The name "Gaslamp Quarter" is a reference to the gas lamps that were common in San Diego in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Four new gaslamps have been installed at the intersection of Market Street and 5th Avenue to evoke that time.
The Gaslamp Quarter is a 16½ block historical neighborhood in Downtown San Diego, and is the site of several entertainment and night life venues, as well as scheduled events and festivals. Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres is located one block away in downtown San Diego's East Village.
The area is listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places as Gaslamp Quarter Historic District. Its main period of development began in 1867, when Alonzo Horton bought the land in hopes of creating a new city center closer to the bay, and chose 5th Avenue as its main street. After a period of urban decay, the neighborhood underwent urban renewal in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Gaslamp Quarter extends from Broadway to Harbor Drive, and from 4th to 6th Avenue, covering 16½ blocks.
Little Italy is a somewhat hilly neighborhood in Downtown San Diego, California that was originally a predominately Italian fishing neighborhood. It has since been gentrified and now Little Italy is a scenic neighborhood composed mostly of Italian restaurants, Italian retail shops, home design stores, art galleries, and residential units.
Little Italy is one of the more active downtown neighborhoods and has frequent festivals and events including a weekly farmers market, also known as the Mercato (the Market, in Italian). The neighborhood has low crime rates when compared with other neighborhoods in Downtown San Diego and is maintained by the Little Italy Neighborhood Association, which looks after trash collection, decorations, and special events.
Little Italy is located in the northwest end of Downtown, just a few blocks away from the Embarcadero. It is located north of Columbia, south of Middletown, southeast of Core, and west of Cortez Hill. It is also located on a hill thus giving its hilly terrain.
This district is bordered by West Laurel Street to the north, West Ash Street to the south, Interstate 5/Front Street to the east and the San Diego Bay and Pacific Highway to the west.
India Street, the commercial corridor, runs through heart of Little Italy, intermingled with high-density mixed-use buildings and single-family bungalow style historic properties in a highly walkable 48 square block area.
Little Italy hosts many event throughout the year. The majority of events held are related to Italian culture. Most of the events center on and around India street, usually bordered by Grape street to north and Beech Street or Ash Street to the south.
Every Saturday, 9:00am – 1:30pm, on Date Street; Little Italy hosts the Little Italy Mercato. This Italian farmers' market features freshly caught fish, vegetables and fruit from local farmers, pastries from local bakeries, flowers and plants from local farms, and art from local artists.
The Saturday before Mardi Gras, there is the Little Italy Carnevale, a Venetian mask event with several vignettes of entertainment and an open house for retail shops and restaurants.
In April, there is ArtWalk, the largest art event in the west coast with over 120,000 people coming to purchase various mediums of art - paintings, photography, jewelry, furniture and more. Also in April, there is Gran Fondo (Big Ride) Colnago San Diego, where over 3,000 bicycle riders from all over the world come to ride throughout "America's Finest City" in a 32, 53 or 100 mile ride that starts under the Little Italy landmark sign.
In May, the Sicilian American community of San Diego celebrates the Sicilian Festival, the first Italian festival held in Little Italy, launched in 1993. It features Italian and Sicilian entertainment, a cultural pavilion highlighting the contributions of the Italians of San Diego, vendors, and Sicilian cuisine.
In May and again in November, there is the Taste of Little Italy (Spring), where attendees pay to sample food from over 20 participating restaurants and entertainment throughout the community. Proceeds from this event go to the Little Italy Association.
In September, there is the Labor Day Stickball Tournament, where several stickball leagues come to play on the streets of Little Italy. This time honored east coast game is played like baseball, but with some minor tweaks. Every third year the San Diego leagues host a West Coast Invitational where they invite New York and Puerto Rico to play on the streets of San Diego's Little Italy.
In October, there is the Little Italy Festa, the largest Italian festival outside of New York City, with over 150 Italian food and crafter booths, three stages of entertainment, the Gesso Italiano Street Painting Festival, a stickball exhibition game, bocce ball tournament and beer & wine gardens. Also in October, there is the Bulls of St. Agata Charge Little Italy; this event showcases over 50 Lamborghinis from all over the United States.
In December, there is the Little Italy Christmas Village and Tree Lighting. This event has progressively gotten larger and larger, with Santa Claus riding in on Little Italy Fire Engine #3 kicking off the festivities of music, shopping and bubbly snow flakes for the kids.
The district is bordered to the north by the Columbia district, bordered to east/south-east by the Gaslamp Quarter, and is bordered to the south-west by the San Diego Marina.
This district used to be full of warehouses and vacant lots, but now it houses mid-rise and high-rise hotels, apartments, condominiums, medical offices and retail. Seaport Village and the San Diego Convention Center are located in this neighborhood. Pantoja Park, the oldest park in San Diego, is located in the Marina District.
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Updated: 10th May, 2021 3:08 AM (UTC).