A shiny new skyscraper. A little old firehouse.

New Cisterra building rises behind Tony Gwynn statue at Petco Park in East Village.
New Cisterra building rises behind Tony Gwynn statue at Petco Park in East Village.

As the local economy has improved, I’ve noticed a spate of new construction underway in downtown San Diego. Several skyscrapers are on the rise!

Last weekend I walked past the rapidly progressing Cisterra building which will overlook East Village. It stands just a block north of Petco’s Park at the Park. The future home of gigantic Sempra Energy, the high-rise is being built directly next to one of San Diego’s most interesting old buildings: Fire Station 4. The beautiful little firehouse is San Diego’s oldest, dating from the 1930’s. Once the shiny new skyscraper is completed, the two buildings side-by-side will create quite a contrast!

New skyscraper in San Diego to be headquarters of Sempra Energy.
New skyscraper in San Diego to be headquarters of Sempra Energy.
Steel, glass and reflections make for interesting photos.
Steel lattice, glass grid and odd reflections make for an interesting photo.
Construction of this gleaming high-rise can be observed in downtown San Diego.
Construction of this gleaming high-rise can be observed in downtown San Diego.
Stately little Fire Station No. 4 beside new modern skyscraper.
Stately little Fire Station No. 4 beside new modern skyscraper.
This is the oldest firehouse in San Diego, in service since 1938.
This is the oldest firehouse in San Diego, in service since 1938.
Fire Station 4, built as a New Deal WPA project, is a designated historical landmark.
Fire Station 4, built as a New Deal WPA project, is a designated historical landmark.
Beautiful old San Diego firehouse at the foot of a shiny new skyscraper.
Beautiful old San Diego firehouse at the foot of what will be a shiny new skyscraper.

Here’s a bonus pic which I took on a morning in early February…

A rising skyscraper shines brightly in the early morning.
A rising skyscraper shines brightly in the early morning.

…and another I took in March…

Fire Station Number 4 at base of silvery, shiny new skyscraper.
Fire Station Number 4 at base of silvery, shiny new skyscraper.

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New public art along downtown trolley tracks.

New public art being applied to building on San Diego's waterfront.
New public art being applied to building on San Diego’s waterfront.

Early yesterday morning, I strolled for a few minutes along San Diego’s beautiful Embarcadero. I wanted to get some photographs to update last year’s blog post about the Star of India’s tattered sails.

While heading back east on Beech Street, I noticed some gigantic public art is being applied to the west side of the relatively new Ariel Luxury Apartments building. This high-rise stands between Santa Fe Depot and the Little Italy trolley station.

I’ve found no info on the internet about this new artwork. Here are some pics!

A red San Diego trolley passes fishermen catching a huge fish!
A red San Diego trolley passes fishermen catching a huge fish!
This new artwork is on the side of the Ariel Luxury Apartments in downtown.
This new artwork is on the side of the Ariel Luxury Apartments in downtown San Diego.

Half a century ago, San Diego was home to the world’s largest tuna fishing fleet! This image of fishermen working together is very similar to a sculpture on Shelter Island, which I have yet to blog about!

Workers on platform busy mounting a gigantic trophy fish to a high-rise building!
Workers on platform mount a gigantic trophy fish to a high-rise building!

I’m not sure what the white stuff is running down the building’s side. I suppose that will be removed when all is done!

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Trees removed from Jungle Trail Canyon.

Canyon in Balboa Park to be site of San Diego Zoo employee parking structure.
Canyon in Balboa Park to be site of San Diego Zoo employee parking structure.

When I recently went on a special tour at the San Diego Museum of Art, my new docent friend expressed concern about an upcoming construction project. We were standing at a window that overlooks Old Globe Way, a short, winding access road that follows the edge of Jungle Trail Canyon directly behind the museum. The road starts behind the San Diego Junior Theatre, passes the rear of the Botanical Building, and finally leads to the back of the Old Globe Theatre. We gazed out the window at many colorful hummingbird feeders dangling from a nearby tree, at trees by the road that were marked with green paint, then beyond the narrow canyon to the back of the famous San Diego Zoo. The small canyon, I learned, was to be converted to parking!

After doing a bit of research for news on the internet, I learned the canyon would be the location of a six level parking garage for zoo employees. The idea is to free up a large amount of space from the zoo’s main parking lot on Park Boulevard. Employees arriving by car usually start their shifts in the early morning, and depart at different times, so traffic problems in the park would be kept to a minimum.  The new structure has been in the planning stage for a long time.

Yesterday my journey through Balboa Park included a stroll down Old Globe Way. I saw that the work had already been started. Fortunately, those green markings on larger trees indicated they were to be saved.

A tree at canyon's edge is mercifully saved.
A tree at canyon’s edge is mercifully saved.
Canyon between Old Globe, art museum and zoo has been mostly unused.
Canyon between Old Globe, art museum and zoo has been mostly unused.
San Diego Zoo amphitheater where squawking birds and other animals perform.
San Diego Zoo amphitheater where exotic birds and other animals perform.
Trees cut down, making way for new road to a long-planned parking area.
Trees cut down, making way for new road to a long-planned parking area.
Hummingbird feeders in a tree directly behind the San Diego Museum of Art.
Hummingbird feeders in a tree directly behind the San Diego Museum of Art.

Here’s one of several identical signs that appeared nearby in November…

Sign posted in Balboa Park explains the Old Globe Way Renovation.
Sign posted in Balboa Park explains the Old Globe Way Renovation.

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Habitat for Humanity builds a house downtown!

Habitat for Humanity is building a house in downtown's Horton Square!
Habitat for Humanity is building a house in downtown’s Horton Square!

Yesterday–Sunday–I was leaving Horton Plaza when I noticed a small home is being built in the center of downtown San Diego! The house is rising just south of Broadway in Horton Square, the exact spot where a weekly farmers market and winter ice rink are located.

I swung by again early this morning hoping to see volunteers at work, continuing with the construction. One gentleman had already arrived and was carrying tools out of a shed. I asked him when the day’s work would begin. They were forced to work between 9 and 10, he told me, because of the noise of hammering!

The project is called Habitat Off Broadway. The unusual build site provides Habitat for Humanity an opportunity to share their mission with those who live and work in the heart of San Diego.

Once the house is framed, it will be broken down into pieces and transported to east county’s El Cajon, where it will become somebody’s home.

Gentleman preparing the day's work told me a little about this unique project.
Gentleman preparing the day’s work told me a little about this unique project.
Habitat Off Broadway aims to touch those who live and work in San Diego.
Habitat Off Broadway aims to touch those who live and work in San Diego.
Sign explains how home ownership is beneficial for families.
Sign explains how home ownership is beneficial for families.
The house is already partially framed and awaits more work later in the morning!
The house is partially framed and awaits more work later in the morning!

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San Diego’s Embarcadero made more beautiful.

Trees ready for planting in new park on Embarcadero.
Trees ready for planting in new park on Embarcadero.

Major improvements to the North Embarcadero are well underway, and I was able to get some interesting pics yesterday!

Harbor Drive is undergoing a facelift from the Coast Guard Station down to the USS Midway Museum. This area is considered San Diego’s front doorstep, but until this renovation it’s been more parking lot than park.

Many large-scale changes are going to make San Diego even more beautiful! The two ugly parking lots on either side of the County Administration Building are being transformed into grassy waterfront parks; Harbor Drive is being made more pedestrian friendly with pavilions, flower beds and new restrooms; most of the traffic on Harbor Drive will now be diverted onto Pacific Highway.

I’m really looking forward to the project’s completion!

Workers prepare public park near Star of India.
Workers prepare public park near Star of India.
County Administration Building will have grass parks on either side.
County Administration Building will have grass parks on either side.
Working on a new pavilion on San Diego's front doorstep.
Working on a new pavilion on San Diego’s front doorstep.
New pavilion being built behind the Bay Cafe.
New pavilion being built behind the Bay Cafe.
Sign near Broadway Pier describes Embarcadero improvements.
Sign near Broadway Pier describes Embarcadero improvements.
Anchor on Harbor Drive near USS Midway Museum.
Anchor on Harbor Drive near USS Midway Museum.

Here are two pics I took on 5/24/14…

New waterfront pavilion under construction.
New waterfront pavilion under construction.
Building made of words to be part of new Embarcadero.
Building made of words to be part of new Embarcadero.

And two more pics from 9/20/14…

Pavilion near Broadway will complete part of North Embarcadero Visionary Plan.
Pavilion near Broadway will complete part of North Embarcadero Visionary Plan.
The word SKY allows light to shine in from the sky!
The word SKY allows light to shine in from the sky!

UPDATE!

I took the following pictures on November 9, 2014. The improvements around the Broadway Pier appear to be nearly finished!

New pavilion near Broadway Pier is almost finished in early November 2014.
New pavilion near Broadway Pier is almost finished in early November 2014.
Colorful glass, shiny surfaces and word-shaped skylights are a delight!
Colorful glass, shiny surfaces and word-shaped skylights are a delight!
Worker putting final touches on a booth to be used by harbor cruise company.
Worker putting final touches on a ticket booth to be used by harbor cruise company.
Word shining from roof of pavilion spells JOY.
Word shining from roof of pavilion spells JOY.
Restroom walls are formed of crazy letters spelling various words.
Restroom walls are formed of crazy letters spelling various words.
A new hotel is rising across Harbor Drive, at site of old Lane Field, north of Broadway.
A new hotel is rising across Harbor Drive, at site of old Lane Field, north of Broadway.

The fall of one downtown San Diego building.

A big pile of rubble in downtown San Diego.
A big pile of rubble in downtown San Diego.

The scene downtown is constantly fascinating. The kaleidoscope of colors, thousands of people on the move, the crazy, seemingly random whirl of activity…

Over the years, the buildings themselves participate in this dance of life. New structures rise into the shining skyline like spring flowers, and old, crumbling derelicts are torn down to make way.

The time-worn Brake Depot is being torn down. Once the pride of the block, it’s being swept away to make room for new development. Here are some photographs:

The now empty remains of Brake Depot on B Street.
The now empty remains of Brake Depot on B Street.
Instruments of urban destruction sit idle.
Instruments of urban destruction sit idle.
Glass skyscraper shines behind a sadly destroyed wreck.
Glass skyscraper shines behind a sadly destroyed wreck.
A big hole in one wall of the former Brake Depot.
A big hole in one wall of the former Brake Depot.

UPDATE!

Brake Depot is long gone. But look what’s rising in late 2015!

A new downtown San Diego project, called Blue Sky, is rising where Brake Depot used to be. Blue Sky will be downtown's largest apartment building, with 939 units!
A new downtown San Diego project, called Blue Sky, is rising where Brake Depot used to be. Blue Sky will be downtown’s largest apartment building, with 939 units!
Blue Sky's two towers will be located on B Street between Symphony Towers and Vantage Pointe (in the background), which is currently San Diego's largest apartment complex.
Blue Sky’s two towers will be located on B Street between Symphony Towers and Vantage Pointe (in the background), which is currently San Diego’s largest apartment complex.

History at Horton Plaza Park construction site.

North part of the Horton Plaza Park construction site behind fence.
North part of the Horton Plaza Park construction site behind fence.

A large area between Broadway and the Horton Plaza shopping mall is fenced off for construction.  One end of the downtown mall has already been demolished and leveled to the bare ground.  The long-neglected Horton Plaza Park is being enlarged!

On the fence surrounding the construction site are a number of interesting old photographs showing the park’s history.

When real estate developer Alonzo Horton built the Horton House hotel (now the U.S. Grant Hotel) in his “New Town” in 1870, he included a small plaza on the hotel  grounds.  In 1895 he sold the half block plaza to the growing city of San Diego, stating his objective was “to provide a central, commodious and attractive place for public meetings, public announcements, public recreation and for any other proper public purposes, a place where all public questions might be discussed with comfort, where public open-air concerts might be given, where the people might rest, and where children might play in safety.”  In 1909 the first fountain in the United States to feature electric lights was installed in the park.

Over the years, the small park has seen a whole lot of history, as the following photographs at today’s construction site demonstrate.  Horton Plaza Park was designated a historical landmark by the City of San Diego in 1971.

Horton Plaza Park during 1935 California Pacific International Exposition.
Horton Plaza Park during 1935 California Pacific International Exposition.
Horton Plaza Park crowded for V-J Day celebration.
Horton Plaza Park crowded for V-J Day celebration.

The streets were crowded with a spontaneous celebration when World War II finally ended.

Thousands attend rally for John F. Kennedy in Horton Plaza Park.
Thousands attend rally for John F. Kennedy in Horton Plaza Park.

On November 2, 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy spoke at Horton Plaza Park, seeking votes in the upcoming presidential election.  A huge crowd turned out.

How the new Horton Plaza Park will look at completion.
Sign shows how the new Horton Plaza Park will look at completion.

The beautifully renovated park will include lots of space for public events, including outdoor concerts!

A huge area has been cleared to make way for the new park.
A huge area has been cleared to make way for the new park.

Here’s a pic I took on January 31, 2015…

Construction of the new Horton Plaza Park is well underway in early 2015.
Construction of the new Horton Plaza Park is well underway in early 2015.