Jeremy Ogul | Editor
An indoor skydiving facility, a drive-through Starbucks, a new hotel and a 13-acre park are coming soon to two undeveloped parcels of land near Interstate 8 and Qualcomm Way.
Grading has already begun on the three-acre parcel just north of the Qualcomm Way offramp from westbound I-8. There, developer Sudberry Properties has partnered with indoor skydiving company iFLY to build a 50-foot structure that will house a circular wind tunnel 14 feet in diameter. Four axial fans at the bottom of the chamber generate a high-speed column of wind that gives users the sensation of flying.
“It is exactly like freefall skydiving,” said iFLY CEO Alan Metni, who used to skydive professionally. “It’s all the same excitement, all the same fun and freedom to move around, without the risk that goes along with freefall skydiving.”
It is also a lot less expensive. A first-time tandem jump out of an airplane generally costs around $200 with various San Diego-area companies, whereas iFLY’s indoor experience will be priced around $70.
Metni said his company was interested in Mission Valley because it is central to San Diego’s tourism infrastructure and also easily accessible to military populations, who make up a sizable chunk of iFLY’s market.
Based in Austin, Texas, iFLY has built 34 similar indoor skydiving facilities around the world, including three others in California. The company expects its $10 million Mission Valley facility to attract 150,000 visitors a year for birthday parties, corporate team-building activities, class field trips, other special events and individualized experiences. It will also employ approximately three dozen people by the time it opens next year, Metni said.
Just west of the skydiving building, closer to Qualcomm Way, Sudberry is also developing two retail pads, including an 1,800-square-foot drive-through Starbucks. More than half a dozen Starbucks stores are already sprinkled throughout Mission Valley, but the nearest drive-through is farther east, near the intersection of Camino del Rio North and Fairmount Avenue.
In addition to skydiving and Starbucks, the eastern end of the property will also host a new 135-room hotel. The 50-foot building will likely be a Springhill Suites by Marriott, according to OTO Development manager Taylor Callaham, who introduced the hotel’s design at a recent Mission Valley Planning Group meeting.
Sudberry is naming the overall development “Discovery Place.” The narrow parcel owned by the Grant family is awkwardly sandwiched between the freeway and Camino del Rio North, which is part of the reason it has taken so long to develop compared to the rest of the valley.
(The area also happens to have one of the most confusing street name situations in Mission Valley. When you head east from Mission Center Road, you’re on Camino de la Reina, but as soon as you cross Qualcomm Way, the street name changes to Camino del Rio North. Similarly, when you head south from Friars Road, you’re on Qualcomm Way, but once you cross Interstate 8 and Camino del Rio South, the street name changes to Texas Street.)
“I do think a lot of people, including the Grants, believed this site… would never be developed,” said Colton Sudberry, CEO of Sudberry Properties.
Across the street and adjacent to the river, the San Diego River Park Foundation is working to secure permits and funding for a new public park called Discovery Center at Grant Park. The park will include a 9,450-square-foot building with space for interpretative exhibits and events, an outdoor education area with seating for 120 people, a refreshment kiosk, a large central lawn, an extension of the San Diego River Trail, public restrooms for trail users and large areas of landscaping and open space.
The estimated budget for the park project is $21.5 million, including the land — about 17 acres valued at approximately $10 million — donated by the Grant family.
The site development permit for the park is currently available for public review. Public hearings to approve the permit should be held early next year, and the park may open by the end of 2015, said Rob Hutsel, the foundation’s executive director.