Downtown San Diego’s third-biggest apartment complex set to open

There could soon be a whole lot more people living downtown.

After three years of construction, the 400-foot Diega apartment complex gets its finishing touches this month. It has 617 units, making it the third-biggest apartment complex in downtown.

Diega is a project from Canadian Bosa Development, typically known for its condos. Its biggest downtown projects before this were the Pacific Gate and Savina towers that were exclusively for-sale buildings.

The project at 702 Broadway is an area of downtown known mainly for office towers. Near the complex is the Chase Bank building, Symphony Towers, The San Diego Union-Tribune building and the Bank of America tower. The area is becoming more residential with the addition of Diega and the nearby rehab of the John D. Spreckels Building from offices into a 231-apartment project.

The location could be ideal for someone looking to explore the city with only a 10- to 15-minute walk to the Gaslamp Quarter. It is also a short walk to several San Diego Trolley stations that could, potentially, be used to commute to high-paying jobs in the University City area when the blue line extension is completed this fall.

“It’s in the middle of the best neighborhoods,” said Terry Best, Diega’s community manager.

When Diega began construction, Bosa was looking to take advantage of rapid rent growth in San Diego. After a lull in rents during the pandemic, Diega may be in a position to take advantage of the market heating up again.

The average rent in San Diego County hit $2,009 a month in the second quarter of 2021, said real estate tracker CoStar’s database of 270,596 units. That is an increase of 8.4 percent in a year and the biggest annual jump in CoStar’s data going back to 2001. The previous high point was in the third quarter of 2015 when rent grew 7 percent year-over-year.

CoStar said the average rent at Diega for a studio (584 square foot average) is $2,479 a month; For a one-bedroom (735 square feet), $2,968 a month; and for a two-bedroom (1,104 square feet), $3,917.

Diega is in heavy competition for renters with some of the newest and amenity-heavy downtown towers just a few blocks away, including Alexan ALX, Shift and the remodeled John D. Spreckels Building.

As expected by looking at its condo towers, Bosa went all-in with amenities, devoting the seventh floor to a variety of offerings. There is a 50-foot-long, 11-foot-wide pool with views of most of downtown while you swim (and a 19-foot-long, 11-foot-wide hot tub). It is surrounded by palm trees and birds-of-paradise plants, five cabanas and roughly 70 chairs.

The seventh floor also has barbecue areas, dry sauna, locker rooms, a co-working space with vintage furniture and free wireless Internet, social lounge, and a 5,800-square-foot outdoor/indoor gym with a yoga studio and seven spin bikes. Rather than put the amenities on the top floor, like many downtown complexes, Bosa decided to put it at a central location between the 41-floor south tower and 20-floor north tower.

The first-floor lobby includes a lounge area with a grand piano and mechanical artificial trees that light up and move. Almost all apartments have a balcony and all come with a washer and dryer.

Alan Nevin, a real estate analyst with Xpera Group, said aside from the efforts to attract renters, Diega’s amenities make it a possible candidate for converting to condos some day. He did the initial market research for Diega three years ago, and has done the same for many of the new downtown complexes, and said he had never seen a tower offer so much.

Bosa elected not to put subsidized housing on-site, instead paying a fee of nearly $4 million. The first residents started moving in in April as the finishing touches of the building were being completed. Best said Diega is 47 percent leased and the majority of renters have been millennials who work downtown or are still working from home. Despite housing shortages at UC San Diego, Best said very few students have signed leases.

Diega charges $25 for a parking spot and $150 a month for a second spot. While it is an added cost that a tenant would not need to worry about while renting an older apartment in North Park, it is cheaper than all downtown parking garages.

Initial plans put the Diega tower around 490 feet at its highest point, which would have made it the tallest residential tower in San Diego. It was scaled back and is now roughly 400 feet, still one of the tallest residential towers, but lower than the Pinnacle on the Park and Spire San Diego towers at 479 feet.

Diega has some of the most units for a single apartment complex downtown but is not the biggest. Park 12, which overlooks Petco Park and opened in 2019, has 718 apartments. Vantage Pointe, which opened in 2009, has 679 units.

There are two towers side by side in East Village that are separate but from the same developer, Pinnacle International, and could be considered one combined project despite being completed years apart. The yellow Pinnacle on the Park building has 483 units and the neighboring red Spire San Diego has 469 units, making for a combined 952 apartments.