February 9, 2023 — Plans to convert Navy Pier into a public park along San Diego Bay’s North Embarcadero have taken a major step forward. The California Coastal Commission voted unanimously to issue a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) to the Port of San Diego and USS Midway Museum (Midway) for the project. The CDP approval is the culmination of a years-long collaborative effort of the Port, the Midway, and Coastal Commission staff. The Midway proposes to call the park Freedom Park, with nods to San Diego’s military history throughout.

“This is a huge milestone for the Port, the Midway, and the Coastal Commission, and is proof that a positive solution for all can be found in challenging situations,” said Chairman Rafael Castellanos, Port of San Diego Board of Port Commissioners. “We look forward to delivering this exciting new public park – and improving public access – on the North Embarcadero, the Port’s most visible and public waterfront often considered San Diego’s “front porch.”

“This is a great next step, and together with our partners at the Port of San Diego, we’re now positioned to make Freedom Park on Navy Pier a reality,” said Mac McLaughlin, president and CEO of the USS Midway Museum. “This new park will not only be a major public gathering place on the bayfront, but will also be a proud tribute to the service and sacrifices of our military veterans.”

The CDP allows for demolition of the headhouse structure at the entrance to the pier, structural repairs/rehabilitation on and under the pier in the vicinity of the demolished headhouse, and then construction of the park. A structural pile improvement project is currently underway beneath the pier. The Port anticipates starting demolition of the headhouse building in early 2024, followed by additional structural improvements on and under the pier, and subsequently construction of Freedom Park. The park’s opening is anticipated for 2028.

Current estimates for design and construction of all project components total $64.5 million in investment into the conversion of the pier to Freedom Park. The Port and Midway entered into a Memorandum of Understanding in May 2022 to establish each party’s commitments for funding the project.

Freedom Park will be designed to connect with the adjacent park areas surrounding the Midway, including areas along the promenade and extending into G Street Mole to the Bob Hope Memorial, resulting in the largest veterans park on the West Coast. Generally, the park will include pedestrian pathways around and through the park, landscaping, enhanced paving, benches, play structures, memorials and monuments, coastal access and interpretive signage, signage, restrooms, concessionaire, and parking.

Converting Navy Pier to a park will add to the various public amenities and development the Port has delivered in the North Embarcadero in recent years:

  • Portside Pier with first-rate views of San Diego Bay from public viewing areas and four Brigantine restaurants – Brigantine Seafood & Oyster Bar, Miguel’s Cocina, Ketch Grill & Taps, and Portside Coffee & Gelato.
  • BRIC – a lifestyle destination at Broadway and Pacific that includes the Intercontinental San Diego hotel and two Marriott hotels as well as restaurants and retail.
  • North Embarcadero Visionary Plan – improvements included Lane Field Park, which is dedicated to and named after the field where the original Pacific Coast League Padres played from 1936-1957; Carnitas Snack Shack; a widened public esplanade lined with lush jacaranda trees; iconic public art, café building, entertainment and information centers, and even the public restroom building; the “Grand Hall” along West Broadway; and more.