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Downtown San Diego (also referred to as Centre City) is the city center of San Diegomarker, Californiamarker, U.S.marker and the central business district of San Diego Countymarker. In 2004, Centre City San Diego had a population of 28,586.



The city of San Diego was originally focused in Old Townmarker near the Presidiomarker. In 1850 William Heath Davis and four partners purchased of land in what is now Downtown San Diego, believing that a town closer to the waterfront would attact more trade. They laid out a street plan and built a wharf and warehouse, but nothing much came of their planned development.

In 1867 Alonzo Horton purchased of pueblo lands in the current Downtown area, and in 1869 he added Davis’s 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, which became 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. In 1886 the city’s first electric lights and first streetcars were established in New Town. In 1912 the Spreckles 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 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 leave. 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 Hotelmarker). 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 Centermarker.


Centre City San Diego is delimited by San Diego Baymarker to the west and southwest, Bankers Hill, Middletown, and Balboa Park to the north, Sherman Heights and Golden Hill to the east, and Barrio Loganmarker and Logan Heightsmarker to the southeast. San Diego International Airportmarker is just northwest of downtown.

Districts and neighborhoods


Due to San Diego International Airportmarker's (Lindbergh Field) proximity to downtown, there is a FAA imposed 500-foot height restriction on all buildings downtown. The height regulation exists because when planes approach and leave the airport, any structure taller than 500 ft. could interfere with flight operations and potentially cause a collision.

Government buildings

The United States Postal Service operates the downtown San Diego Post Office at 815 East Street. The city's main public library is located across the street from it at 8th and E streets. Other government buildings downtown include City Hall and other city administration buildings, the State of California office building at 1350 Front Street, and a three-block federal office complex at 8th and Front streets. County and federal courthouses are also located downtown.

Arts and 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 Hallmarker, 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 Theatremarker, 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. Night clubs such as the House of Blues and Croce’s feature well known musical groups.

Tourist attractions

The Columbia (waterfront) neighborhood of downtown hosts the Midwaymarker aircraft carrier museum ship, as well as the eight ships and boats of the San Diego Maritime Museummarker, headlined by the Star of Indiamarker.

The San Diego Convention Centermarker and Petco Parkmarker 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 Coronadomarker, and San Diego Baymarker harbor tours depart from Harbor Drive.

Annual events

Downtown events include the Big Bay Balloon Parade, held in conjunction with the Holiday Bowl; the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade and Festival; the Parade of Lights featuring holiday-decorated boats on the Bay; and the San Diego Street Scene music festival.


The downtown area is served by the San Diego City Schools. Washington Elementary School is located in the downtown area. Older students from downtown attend Roosevelt Middle School and San Diego High School in the Balboa Parkmarker area. A few private or religious schools exist in the area. California Western School of Law is located downtown.


Interstate 5 passes through the downtown area and Highway 163 ends in downtown. Streets are laid out in a grid pattern and many are designated for one-way traffic. Main thoroughfares include Broadway, Market Street, and Pacific Highway.

The downtown area is served by the San Diego Trolley, as well as a commuter train to northern San Diego County called the Coaster and the Amtrak passenger rail system.

See also


External links

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