SAN DIEGO – The CEO of a company behind the $3.5 billion proposal for Seaport San Diego says it could strengthen the city’s link to its scenic waterfront in a bid that could take years to complete.

A series of renderings by developer 1HWY1 were released late last week showing the scope of the privately funded plan set to span along the Central Embarcadero. It comes with a massive footprint, expected to include seven hotels, restaurants, an aquarium, a BlueTech research facility and a sizable share of public space with parks, piers, boat slips and more.

“We know change is hard,” 1HWY1 CEO Yehudi ‘Gaf’ Gaffen said. “We know many people have really fond memories of Seaport Village. There’s a lot of nostalgia. We’ve committed to maybe not have it be the same, but still have elements of it there whether that’s the intimacy, the duck ponds, the carousel.”

Gaffen, who lives in San Diego, fully recognizes it’s a project that doesn’t happen overnight. If it ultimately comes to fruition, it will take careful planning over years and a significant amount of public buy-in.

“We knew it when we took it on,” he said.

The most recent step came late last week when a four-and-a-half-hour workshop was held by Port of San Diego Commissioners. In it, the Union-Tribune reported numerous critiques of the effort were expressed, ranging from the size of the plan to concerns from area fishermen.

Gaffen said those concerns were heard with efforts ongoing to put forward the best version of the project.

“One is the waterside development,” he said. “The amount of slips we have for private boats, private yachts. We heard loud and clear that there’s a desire to reduce that number of slips which we are very open to do. We started working on that. The second big issue was that we need to reevaluate our commercial fishing areas and buildings.

“The commercial fisherman made it very clear also that COVID has changed the needs, (moving) them more into direct marketing of their fish to the customers.”

While it’s easy to drool over a set of splashy renderings, it’s also a learning process for those who know the area best to see how they would be factored in.

“If they decided to change it, we’re not too sure,” said Dean Ismail, whose family has owned Alamo Flags on West Harbor Drive for 30 years. “We would definitely have to take it day by day.”

Ismail says he grew up at Seaport Village. Enduring such a substantial change could be difficult, he admits.

“It’s like my second home down here so seeing the whole area change would be devastating,” he said.

Other businesses say they are concerned with the cost to rent a new facility. They’re left to ponder the idea as it works its way through the development process.

“I’m on the edge,” said Charly Black, who works at Indian Trails Galley. “Not too sure how I’m going to like it. “A lot of people know Seaport Village as it is and because it’s been here forever and people know that.”

Gaffen said he plans to work through changes to boat slips and fishing areas with the expectation to bring them to the Port Authority in September at the earliest.

“We really relooked at the project to be more outward-looking,” he said, “More connected to downtown, more part of downtown to really bring the waterfront to the city, but also bring the city to the waterfront.”

Developers are on track to break ground in 2025.

FOX 5’s Dillon Davis contributed to this report.