Once a bustling U.S. Navy training location, the former Naval Training Center San Diego is now home to Liberty Station, with 251 employers.
Liberty Station, on the site of the former Naval Training Center (NTC) San Diego, is a mixed-use redevelopment considered one of the most successful base reuse projects in the country. After the base was recommended for closure in 1993, the City of San Diego began planning a mixed-used redevelopment that now includes 125 acres of greenbelt, park and open space, fine stores, office buildings, restaurants, retail outlets, and an arts and cultural center, all surrounded by the original historic architecture. As of 2016, 251 organizations employed 5,183 people on the former base – nearly 13 times as many civilian jobs as when the base closed.
The area is divided into districts: retail and commercial; educational; residential; hotel; and office.
Anchor tenants of the retail and commercial districts include Vons Grocery Store, Trader Joe’s and Ace Hardware. There are several dozen restaurants and a variety of retail shops. Recently Boffo Cinemas opened a six-screen multiplex theater called The Lot, located in the renovated historic Luce Auditorium.
The educational district of Liberty Station consists of the High Tech Village, a group of public charter schools collectively known as High Tech High. It was the birthplace of the High Tech High model in early 2000s. This campus includes three high schools, two middle schools, and two elementary schools. All are part of the San Diego Unified School District. The Rock Academy, a private Christian school, is also located in the educational district. Over 400 students from preschool through 12th grade attend the Academy.
A 650-room hotel complex opened in 2018 on the eastern side of the NTC Boat Channel, next to the San Diego International Airport. It consists of three flag hotels and a stand-alone restaurant, as well as a public esplanade along the Boat Channel.
NTC San Diego is a former Navy base located on San Diego Bay. Throughout its 70-year history as a military base, the mission of NTC was to provide primary, advanced and specialized training for members of the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserve. Supporting that mission, NTC eventually expanded to include 300 buildings, and nearly 550 acres. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and many of the individual structures are designated as historic by the City of San Diego, some of them dating back to the mid-1920s when the base was commissioned.
By the early 1990s, NTC contributed almost $80 million to the San Diego economy in payroll alone for both military and civilian personnel.
After the 1993 BRAC Commission recommended NTC San Diego for closure, the Navy initiated closure actions and began to close the facilities incrementally. As the military functions on the base dwindled, so did the Navy's budget. Fearing the lack of activity on the base would lead to security problems, the City and the Navy entered into a master lease agreement in 1995 allowing the City interim use of nearly 70 acres of the base site. The Navy officially closed NTC on April 30, 1997, resulting in the loss of 402 civilian positions.
Once NTC's closure was official, decisions needed to be made as to the redevelopment and reuse of the former military installation. The City of San Diego had not experienced a military base closure previously and was not anticipating any BRAC actions. They followed the steps outlined by the BRAC process and rules, however, and found they were prepared.
A committee was put in place immediately, the NTC Reuse Committee, which saw agreement on a number of important reuse issues: a desire to recognize the Navy’s history in San Diego, and at the site in particular; to preserve the historic buildings and original architecture; and open up the entire area to the public. Open spaces, recreational, cultural and arts, education, and retail opportunities were all part of the original ideas.
The NTC Reuse Committee also knew that the City of San Diego had no viable way to implement the reuse plan, so a partnership with a private entity was always part of the plan. Through a public Request for Proposals, a developer was selected.
The committee added in the concept of creating the NTC Foundation as a nonprofit to rehabilitate and manage buildings in what was deemed the “Civic, Arts and Culture District” of the new development. This was unique. The City required the developer to create the foundation and seed it with millions in capital.
The former base was ultimately divided into ten parcels and transferred to a variety of entities, including the City and Port District of San Diego. The City of San Diego gained ownership of 420 acres in 2000, gradually repurposing the site into a center for commerce, history, and the arts. Preparedness for redevelopment, a notion of uses that would appeal to and benefit many San Diegans, and partnerships helped make the transition from the Naval Training Center San Diego into Liberty Station a success.
Updated October 2020