San Diego Business Journal

Star Players 2016


12/21/16 - San Diego Business Journal - From Beer To Bots, Star Players Could Be Counted On
2016 S.D.’s Strengths Made a Powerful Showing

San Diego — 2016 was a year in which the San Diego business community continued to build on its strengths — life sciences, health care, craft beer and real estate — areas that should continue to bolster the local economy in 2017.
There was even a bold move of confidence by a star-studded cast of heavy hitters to establish a new community bank — the first since 2008. The application awaits regulators’ approval.

As with any year, there were stories of success and tales of failure. And there was the inevitable passing of giants without whom San Diego could not have flourished and become the world-class city it is today.

In this year-end issue, the San Diego Business Journal takes note of some of the more memorable events. And we give special consideration to a baker’s dozen of ambitious, smart and thoughtful pacesetters who set an example by their excellence, leadership and, yes, in some cases humility, in building sturdy companies poised for continued growth in the new year.

Talent, Innovation and Diversity Shine in 2016’s Business Climate

More sunny days than you can count. A 70-mile-long coastline where you are as apt to see surfers, dolphins and chevrons of brown pelicans as you are military ships practicing wargames offshore (no doubt powered by technology developed by companies in San Diego).

World-class research and educational institutions. The poster child of life science clusters, bar none.

Yes, San Diego is pretty amazing. And it keeps getting better. Witness its transcendence in 2016.

  • Efforts to make a dynamic downtown downright irresistible began to take hold: several big-name coworking spaces (WeWork, Downtown Works, DeskHub) set up shop; the University of California, San Diego announced plans for a new cultural and educational center in the ever-evolving East Village, itself undergoing a transformation.
  • Waterfront development picked up pace with the selection of a developer for the $1.2 billion overhaul of downtown’s Central Embarcadero. The Unified Port of San Diego is also working on another project that will include a hotel, restaurants, office and retail space.
  • The startup community, an emerging bellwether of any city’s economic vitality, grew and began to strengthen its roots and cement its ability to attract that all-important millennial generation on whose shoulders the city’s future rests.

These are all parts of the whole and the parts were guided by experienced hands, in business and government, working in concert to make San Diego’s economy more robust, more diverse and more inclusive.

Everyplace has its warts (our freeways remain way too congested and housing costs are concerning). But on the whole, the region is thriving. Join us for a look at some of the people and events that shaped 2016.


YEHUDI GAFFEN, Partner, Protea Waterfront Properties

Yehudi Gaffen has spearheaded numerous local projects in more than three decades in the development business, but he acknowledges that his latest is perhaps among the most daunting. With business partners Jeffrey Essakow and Jeff Jacobs, he heads Protea Waterfront Properties, which has been chosen by the Unified Port of San Diego to oversee what would be a $1.2 billion overhaul of downtown’s Central Embarcadero.

That includes ultimately replacing the iconic Seaport Village — an aging but beloved waterfront mainstay since 1980 — potentially with elements including new hotels, retail marketplaces, an aquarium, a spiral observation tower and a virtual-reality cultural attraction from an arm of the Smithsonian Institution.

Gaffen and his team aren’t the only ones facing the pressures of not only meeting port officials’ expectations for better revenue performance from prime real estate, but also doing so in a way that satisfies discerning locals as well as tourists. All eyes in the coming year will also be on Mike Morton Jr.’s Brigantine Inc., which was tapped by port officials to develop a multivenue dining attraction — the $13 million Portside Pier — that will replace Anthony’s Fish Grotto, whose lease expires in early 2017 after several decades on the North Embarcadero.

Also, planning should be moving forward on more than $1 billion in new elements spanning 57 acres at Harbor Island, which for many years housed primarily rental car lots. Teams at OliverMcMillan (led by Dene Oliver) and Sunroad Enterprises (led by Aaron and Uri Feldman) will be working together and have proposed hotels, offices, parks, public markets and beaches, among other elements.

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