Henry Cobb, Internationally Acclaimed Architect, Unveils Proposed Design for New Office Tower at Western Entrance to Downtown’s San Diego Business District

Legendary architect Henry N. Cobb of Pei Cobb Freed today revealed his design for 700 West Broadway, an elegant, classic and timeless office tower at the western gateway to downtown San Diego’s central business district.

The 34-story modern travertine and glass building will be located at the northeast corner of Broadway and Pacific Highway, adjacent to the Santa Fe depot and across the street from Lane Field. It will contribute new energy to the emerging culture of the centre city’s Columbia District, which recently welcomed the opening of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego inside and adjacent to the depot.

The Centre City Development Corporation must approve the design.

Cobb is widely considered one of the most gifted and visionary high-rise office architects of his time. His firm presented his design today to the CCAC design
subcommittee on behalf of The Irvine Company, which will construct the building. The building will be LEED certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. The certification recognizes buildings that are designed and operated in an environmentally sustainable manner.

In a career spanning almost six decades, Cobb has served as the principal design partner on more three dozen major commissions, either completed or underway in the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia. The list includes the John Hancock Tower in Boston, the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles, the World Trade Center and Grand Marina Hotel in Barcelona, and the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai. Cobb is one of three founding principals of Pei Cobb Freed (formerly I.M. Pei & Partners), based in New York. He has lectured widely and received numerous awards. He has also served as Chairman of the Department of Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design where he earned his architectural degree.

“This site in San Diego has great importance to the city, because of its relationship to the bay, and its prominent, landmark location at the western entrance to downtown” Cobb said. “The site demands and deserves a tower with great presence and integrity.”

“I believe that 700 West Broadway will be elegant, characterized by calm, timeless and classic architecture that will be fresh and functional in 100 years,” he continued. “It will stand with quiet authority, and be a pause in the visual landscape, a cornerstone.”

Cobb has said that the most important elements of a high-rise building are how it meets the sky and how it meets the ground. In addressing these design issues for this tower, Cobb said he drew inspiration from the Monadnock building in Chicago. It was designed by the firms Burnham & Root and Holabird & Roche, and was completed in 1893. The building is still standing and functional today. It is widely noted for its power and simplicity.

The top of 700 West Broadway will be shaped by a flared crown derived from the geometry of the Golden Section that will give it a sophisticated, understated “flourish” where it meets the sky. At street level Cobb said the building features, in effect, four “front porches” that interact thoughtfully with their surroundings. For example, on the east side of the building a special effort has been made for the building to relate well to the adjacent entry pavilions at the Santa Fe depot. The design creates symmetry between the two related front porches that are at once distinctive and complementary.

“They will work well together, featuring sympathetic colors and palms that connect them,” he said. The 700 West Broadway tower will have a restaurant facing Broadway that will offer indoor and outdoor seating, adding an important new dining opportunity in the Columbia District. A long, low and beautiful fountain will run the length of the restaurant between its outdoor patio and the Broadway sidewalk.

“From the outset, we have been committed to building an exceptional building that will make a significant contribution to the beauty and impact of the San Diego skyline,” said Robert Elliott, group senior vice president of Urban Planning and Design at The Irvine Company. “Henry has far exceeded our expectations, producing a design that reflects lessons learning during a long and distinguished career. We will be proud to make his vision a reality, and our hope is that this building will attract new business to downtown, a current priority of the city and the CCDC.”

With the encouragement of San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, a proponent of sustainable development, The Irvine Company also decided to make the building LEED certified.

“700 West Broadway will be remarkable building not only because of its architectural character, but because of the decision to design it in an environmentally responsible way. San Diego is a cutting edge, forward looking city and I can think of no better way to demonstrate the kind of future we are creating here,” Sanders said.

Construction could begin as early as mid 2008 and could take approximately two-and-a-half years.

City plans first anticipated an office tower at the site, and the necessary approvals were obtained by Catellus Development. The land was later sold to Bosa Development, which considered building residential condominiums. Bosa sold the site to The Irvine Company earlier this year.

In recent years, downtown San Diego also has experienced a retail, cultural and
tourism rebirth, with a wealth of new shopping and dining options, and the opening of world-class attractions like Petco Park. Office development, meanwhile, has lagged. The
construction of new office space to attract business activity to downtown has emerged as
a priority for both CCDC and the city of San Diego.

More than two decades after making its first acquisition in San Diego, The Irvine Company now owns six apartment communities and some of downtown San Diego’s premier high-rise office buildings, including One America Plaza, Symphony Towers, Wells Fargo Plaza, 225 Broadway, 101 West Broadway and 501 West Broadway. It also owns high-rise and campus-style office properties in submarkets such as University Town Centre and Sorrento Mesa.

The Irvine Company is one of the nation’s largest and most successful community master planners and real estate investment companies. Incorporated more than a century ago, the privately held company is known internationally for the balanced master planned communities it continues to create on The Irvine Ranch in central Orange County. The company also is known for its portfolio of high-quality, high-profile investment properties – which include major office buildings, hotels, apartment communities, marinas and retail centers – in San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles counties, and Northern California.