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Grand opening held for long-delayed Horton Plaza Park

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SAN DIEGO -- A grand opening celebration was held Wednesday evening for Horton Plaza Park, a long-delayed project that civic boosters hope will transform the front of the shopping center along Broadway.

The $17 million project resulted in a 53,000-square-foot urban plaza that will be used as a public gathering space. Westfield Corp., which owns adjacent Horton Plaza, plans to schedule around 200 events a year at the site.

The park includes three food and beverage pavilions with trellised patios, a booth where tickets can be purchased to local theaters and other San Diego attractions, an amphitheater, a fountain built in 1910, a pop-jet fountain, color-changing light sculptures and free public WiFi.

When work began on the project in November 2012, it was slated for a spring 2014 opening. A series of issues caused construction to drag on, including a delay in getting approvals, uncertainties brought on by the end of redevelopment in the state, and problems with the title to the property.

The area -- bordered by Broadway to the north and the shopping center to the south -- had been looked upon as a kind of dead zone in the downtown area, used more by the homeless than shoppers. One downtown resident told the City Council a few years ago that the area was an embarrassment.

In the last few years, it has been walled-off because of demolition work that took down the Robinsons-May/Planet Hollywood building, and subsequent construction.

The grand opening was hosted by Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who championed the project while he represented downtown on the City Council, and included performances by “America's Got Talent'' finalist William Close & the Earth Harp Collective and the choral ensemble Sacra Profana.

The venue's Park Unplugged concert series will kick off at 11:30 a.m. Thursday with Santana pa Ti, a local Carlos Santana tribute act, along with a disco dance party at 7 p.m.