Byline: The Log Staff
SAN DIEGO — City and Port of San Diego officials gathered Oct. 3 for the official groundbreaking for the planned 3.3-acre Ruocco Park, which will replace a shuttered restaurant and a concrete plaza area.
“I’m excited to present the city of San Diego and the region with another beautiful waterfront park,” Board of Port Commissioners chairman Scott Peters told nearly 100 people gathered for the ceremony along San Diego Bay, just north of Seaport Village.
In less than a year, the Port of San Diego will unveil its 18th public park. It is being named after its benefactors, Lloyd and Ilse Ruocco, the late San Diego couple who created a fund that contributed $3.5 million to help build the bayfront park.
With an additional $3.8 million coming from the Port of San Diego, the $7.3 million park will replace the long-closed Coral Reef Restaurant, a concrete waterfront plaza and approximately 80 public parking spots.
The park, designed by Dennis Otsuji of ONA and Associates Inc., will feature 124 trees, picnic tables and benches, public restrooms and a gateway “ceiling-like” structure by local artist Roman de Salvo that would be fashioned from eucalyptus trees.
“I made my work really celebrate what’s here,” de Salvo said. “The park is really a new access point to the waterfront downtown, and one of the roles of the sculpture is to welcome people to the waterfront. I see it as a gateway.”
The design of the park incorporates many of the elements the Ruoccos requested when they established the park fund — including quiet contemplative areas, trees and artwork.
“This is another great addition to our waterfront and downtown,” said Rep. Bob Filner, who was among those offering congratulations to the port for the project and to thank the Ruoccos for the donation.
Filner said the port, with the addition of Ruocco Park, is helping to make the city of San Diego a “more sustainable, livable and beautiful city.”
Others present at the ceremony included San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox; San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders; San Diego City Council member Todd Gloria; Coronado City Council member Mike Woiwode; San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis; The San Diego Foundation president Bob Kelly; and Bruce Blakley, one of the advisers of the Ruocco trust fund.
Lloyd Ruocco, who died in 1981, was a prominent architect best known for the Design Center, a wood-and-glass office complex built in 1949 in Hillcrest, where he maintained his architectural offices.
His wife, Ilse, was an interior designer who maintained an interior furnishings showroom. She was also an art professor at San Diego State University.
More than 25 years ago, the couple wanted to present a gift to the community — a downtown park. Their vision will become a reality next July, when Ruocco Park is completed.
“I would like to thank the family for this gift,” said Mayor Jerry Sanders. In the audience were the Ruoccos’ nieces, sisters Martha Allen and Charlotte Brady, both of whom lived with the Ruoccos when they were growing up.
Sanders said Ruocco Park, when it is completed, will become a “dramatic gateway” to San Diego.
“We have to do everything we can to make sure the downtown has a quality of life,” said San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria. “This goes a long way in bringing another public space to the waterfront.”
“This has been in the works a long time — more than six years,” said Bob Kelly, president of The San Diego Foundation. “It’s a great day for San Diego.”
The Port of San Diego currently manages 17 public parks that feature amenities including children’s playgrounds, basketball courts, soccer fields, baseball fields and miles of scenic walkways. Also, the port has developed 150 acres of public parkland along San Diego Bay and the shoreline of Imperial Beach. Other amenities include four public fishing piers, four public boat launch ramps and several accessible boat docks.