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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

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Rendering of SDSU Mission Valley's Innovation District Rendering of SDSU Mission Valley's Innovation District

Driving a City Forward

An innovation-based SDSU campus in Mission Valley would breathe new life into the heart of San Diego.
By Gina Jacobs

“This is a blueprint for the university’s community engagement efforts and long-term growth, which will have tremendous benefits for the entire San Diego community.”

View the full SDSU Mission Valley site plan and architectural concepts at

This story appears in the fall 2018 issue of 360: The Magazine of San Diego State University.

In 1931, San Diego State University moved from its Park Avenue location to what eventually became known as Montezuma Mesa, just east of Mission Valley. During almost nine decades in this location, SDSU has grown from a campus of 125 acres, serving 1,200 students, to 288 acres with a student population of approximately 36,000. 

Today, the university generates some $5.67 billion in annual economic impact throughout the San Diego region, and more than 60 percent of graduates put their degrees to work in the community. 

SDSU is looking ahead to the next 100 years with the intent of increasing the university’s local impact through an expansion in Mission Valley. The goal: to build an innovation district at the current site of SDCCU Stadium. There, SDSU would create collaborative partnerships with leading local and national companies; launch new commercial enterprises through business incubators, and expand SDSU’s economic impact in the region. 

The Mission Valley expansion would also add much needed affordable and market rate housing to the area, restore and enhance the San Diego River and create nearly 90 acres of park and open space.

“This is a blueprint for the university’s community engagement efforts and long-term growth, which will have tremendous benefits for the entire San Diego community,” said SDSU President Adela de la Torre. “Not only would the plan generate additional tax revenue for the city and county, the availability of appropriate space for quality education is crucial to SDSU’s future enrollment growth and would enhance the university’s overall economic impact in the region.”

Ripple effect

As the site is developed, SDSU will have the space and facilities to accommodate additional students, generating an economic ripple effect across the entire state and region, but especially in San Diego, where approximately 60 percent of SDSU graduates live and work.

For every 10,000 additional SDSU graduates produced as a result of enrollment growth, the university estimates an additional $200 million in annual economic output, 1,265 additional jobs and $68.7 million in annual labor income generated for the regional economy, based on the university’s 2017 economic impact study.

"SDSU Mission Valley is critical to how we want to grow as a region,” said Jerry Sanders, President and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. “The university's plan has the potential to serve more students, increase SDSU's economic impact on San Diego, and breathe new life into the heart of our city."

Direct economic benefits

The central, transit-oriented location of Mission Valley would become a live-work-play community, anchored by SDSU, where start-ups and leading-edge businesses come together with faculty and students to grow San Diego’s innovation ecosystem. Residential units would coexist alongside a regional river park with neighborhood-serving retail to facilitate a unique work-life balance and reduce the community’s dependency on cars, protecting the environment.

SDSU anticipates its initial up-front investment to be approximately $300 million, one-tenth of the estimated $3 billion development cost. This up-front investment would include land acquisition at fair market value, site improvements, off-site mitigation, River Park construction and demolition of the existing SDCCU Stadium. 

The debt-financed investment would be paid back with revenue generated by lease payments from the university’s private partners. And because the space will be shared with private entities and the general community, it will generate property taxes on taxable possessory interests. Property tax revenue would benefit the City of San Diego, County of San Diego, San Diego Unified School District, and other public agencies.

As the California State Univesrity (CSU) regularly issues debt to construct revenue-generating projects such as this, the financing would not rely on the use of student tuition, fees or taxpayer funds and no student fee increases will be required for any part of the development. Construction of the new stadium would be financed separately, through naming rights, ticket sales, philanthropy and other revenue generated by the stadium itself.

“By partnering with private entities to build out the project site, not only are we able to accommodate the university’s current needs and future growth, but we can also generate a direct economic benefit for the City of San Diego,” said Tom McCarron, vice president of Business and Financial Affairs and SDSU’s chief financial officer. “These benefits would be in addition to SDSU’s already powerful economic impact in the region.”

SDSU Mission Valley would also generate sales and transient occupancy tax revenue for the City of San Diego from the retail and hotels that are expected to populate the development. 

“A significant university presence in Mission Valley is something that will benefit the entire San Diego region,” said McCarron. “We look forward to working with the community to ensure the SDSU Mission Valley plan reflects the values of all San Diegans who want this public asset to provide value to the region for generations to come.”

View the full SDSU Mission Valley site plan and architectural concepts at