SAN DIEGO—Thousands of San Diego residents and visitors turnedout May 10th for a day-long grand opening of the new SanDiego County Administration Center Waterfront Park,located on a prime, 12-acre site along Pacific CoastHighway between Ash and Grape streets in downtown SanDiego.

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McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., led thesuccessful execution of the $49.4 milliondesign-build project. McCarthy's design-build team includedSGPA, architect-of-record; SchmidtDesign, landscape architect of record; AquaticDesign Group, fountain designer; and IPD(International Parking Design) for the parking portion ofthe project. The project broke ground in fall2012, and was completed on time.

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The San Diego County Administration Center Waterfront Parkdevelopment project converted the large eight-acre, on-gradeparking lots north and south of the historic AdministrationCenter and the immediate outdoor areas west and east ofthe building to a large, 12-acre community and regional open spaceamenity. The park encompasses a promenade, two expansive greens,themed specialty gardens, plazas and terraces, a picnic area, shadetrees and palm groves, a large children's playground and publicrestrooms. It also includes a single-level, subterranean parkinggarage located off Ash Street that accommodates 251 cars.

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“This new Waterfront Park will serve as the 'front porch' ofdowntown San Diego's North Embarcadero, and become one of ourcity's civic treasures -- now and in generations to come,” said SanDiego County supervisor Ron Roberts, who haschampioned the park project for over 15 years. “I could not be moreproud to see this project become reality for the more than amillion guests that are expected to visit and enjoy it eachyear.”

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The central design element of the park are lighted fountainsthat run a total of 830 feet long on either side of the CountyAdministration Building, with 31 jets that shoot water 14 feet upinto the air and down into shallow splash areas for children. Thenorth side of the building has four basins with 18 jets, while thesouth side has three basins with 13 jets. The fountains areelectronically equipped to operate in four different modes,depending on the time of day and weather conditions, with basinsdry, jets only, jets plus reflecting pools, or reflecting poolsalone.

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“The fountains originally were designed to be constructed ofgranite, but in the value engineering phase of this project, wewere able to lower material costs significantly by proposing thatthe basins be constructed of exposed aggregate concrete withgranite chips, which produced a very aesthetically pleasingoutcome,” said McCarthy project director LeeSudhoff. “Prior to constructing the fountains, we built a40-foot by 40-foot mockup that allowed us to test the materials andperfect the design and mechanical aspects so there would be noglitches or delays during actual construction.”

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Located to the north of the County Administration Center aretwo-and-a-half acres of specialty gardens, grouped into threedistinct themes: the Grass Garden, the Mediterranean Garden and theDiversity Garden.

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Woven throughout the specialty gardens are pathways with bencheswhere visitors can meander and pause to take in the beauty of thegardens as well as views toward the bay, afforded by the higherelevation of the garden area. A platform provides the ideal settingfor weddings and other private ceremonies.

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An intricate, high-tech subsurface drip irrigation anddrainage system built below the gardens contains rainsensors and provides a means for utilizing rain runoff. The systemwill help maintain ideal soil conditions for all of the gardensyear around.

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Located south of the County Administration Center is theocean-themed, one-plus-acre children's play area,featuring swirling concrete pathways; two large grass knolls; andthree, large mounds of vivid-blue, rubberized, resilient surfacingand a wide assortment of unique playground equipment for childrenof all ages. Decomposed granite was used to surface the remainderof the pathways. Trees surround the playground's perimeter andseating areas.

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"We have reclaimed the waterfront," said San Diego MayorKevin Faulconer. "It was a parking space; now it'sa people space."

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Built in 1938, the historic San Diego County AdministrationCenter has stood on the San Diego bay front, welcoming residentsand visitors alike and symbolizing the ideals of public service, assummed up by the motto, “The noblest motive is the public good.”The McCarthy design-build team was hired to navigate any issuesrelated to the County Administration Center's historical buildingstatus and ensure consistency of integration and integrity.

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As part of this project, the west side of the building was givenall new terracing, railings, retaining walls, landscape and exposedaggregate concrete where the original aggregate concrete had to betorn up to accommodate installation of the fountain chiller lines,which run the entire length of the site from north to south.

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David Phillips

David Phillips is a Chicago-based freelance writer and consultant with more than 20 years experience in business and community news. He also has extensive reporting experience in the food manufacturing industry for national trade publications.