November 23, 2005

Plaza del Pasado Plans for the Future Discussed at Town Hall Meeting

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

The crowd of about 200 people was eager to learn more about the restoration efforts that will take place at Plaza del Pasado, in Old Town.

On Wednesday, November 16, speakers from California State Parks, Delaware North Companies (DNC), and Heritage Architecture & Planning presented the rehabilitation plan that will benefit the Cosmopolitan Hotel & Restaurant, Jolly Boy Saloon, and retail shops and a restaurant in Plaza del Pasado as part of a 10-year contract between Delaware North and State Parks Department.

Delaware North will fund the $12 million project, which will rehabilitate these historic structures to accurately represent the period of San Diego’s past from 1821 to 1872.

“We look forward to this opportunity to update the community on our plans to move forward with a comprehensive restoration effort,” said Ronilee Clark, District Superintendent for State Parks in San Diego. “We’re excited about bringing back the historic look and feel of these buildings, which played an important role in San Diego’s rich past.”

The purpose of the meeting was to inform the public about the project, and to receive public input and concerns as well, said Steve Casad, Delaware North’s Old Town General Manager.

“Plaza del Pasado and the Cosmopolitan Hotel are in need of structural and cosmetic restoration,” Casad said. “Delaware North’s investment will ensure that these historic buildings will be preserved for future generations. Our mission is to ensure these sites will continue to be a resource for fine dining, shopping and entertainment, while also educating visitors about San Diego’s history.”

One of the most common questions that was raised during the meeting was: “What are you going to do here? What changes will be done?”

“These are signature buildings in the history of San Diego,” said David Marshall, president of Heritage Architecture & Planning.  “All of them, especially the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Plaza del Pasado, have been modernized since the 1940s. Our mission is to return these historic buildings to their original condition, as much as possible, and include upgrades that allow them to function as viable businesses while still reflecting the specialness of old San Diego.”

Casad added that one of the main purposes of the rehabilitation is to educate the new generations of San Diegans who will learn about the city’s past.

“Many children visit Old Town,” he said. “If the buildings portray more accurately that past, these kids will benefit from learing from it.”

During the meeting, many of those present in the public made positive comments about the plans for Old Town.

The Cosmopolitan Hotel & Restaurant will receive the most extensive work, said David Marshall, president of Heritage Architecture & Planning.  The building has been a private home, a school, a hotel, restaurant and center of social life in Old Town since it was built in 1829. It has undergone numerous facelifts and reconstructions that have lessened the structure’s historic character.

The Cosmopolitan will be rehabilitated to accurately reflect its 1874 appearance. The original steps on the front and side of the building will be reconstructed, as will the entire façade. New disabled-access public bathrooms will be built as an addition, which will be made to resemble a long-gone adjacent storefront. An elevator will be added, and the second floor will be rehabilitated to house a bed and breakfast inn with up to eight rooms. Each room will be decorated to tell a story about the interesting personalities in San Diego’s past. A new, larger kitchen will be added and the outdoor dining area will be completely renovated.

Plaza del Pasado houses about a dozen shops and a restaurant. It was once a motor court – an early version of what we now call a motel – constructed in 1939. The shops will receive façade work to restore their original appearance, and non-native vegetation will be removed or thinned to make the building more visible and inviting to visitors. Another exciting feature of the renovations to the courtyard structure will include an educational center emphasizing Old Town history.

Rehabilitation of Casa de Reyes will include improvements to landscaping that will visually open the outdoor courtyard area.  A new modern kitchen for Casa de Reyes and an expanded outdoor dining area will be added. 

Also included in this comprehensive historic rehabilitation program will be the Jolly Boy Saloon and Restaurant, which is themed to commemorate life in Old Town during 1846 to 1856, when the Saloon first occupied the location. 

The patio in front of the building will be designed to reflect what it might have felt like to be in Old Town in 1856, making it more open to the plaza and more inviting to people strolling by. The addition of vine-covered trellises, a common feature of that time period, will complete the historic feel.

For more information about Plaza del Pasado restoration visit www.plazadelpasado.com.

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