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El Corazon park
San Diego's Schmidt Design Group has designed several parks throughout the county. Courtesy photo
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El Corazon’s first park site enters design phase

OCEANSIDE – A San Diego-based design group known for its park designs throughout the county will draw up the first park site in El Corazon.

The Oceanside City Council approved an agreement at the Feb. 23 meeting to pay Schmidt Design Group $476,360 to design El Corazon’s Park Site 1 next to the new CaliFino Arena, which is still under construction and is set to be completed early next year.

The arena’s developers have agreed to pay for a 630-space parking lot that the park will share with the arena and two multi-use fields as well.

The city gained ownership of the vacant 465-acre El Corazon property, which was previously used as a sandpit, in 1994.

Under the El Corazon Specific Plan, which was approved in 2009, El Corazon’s 216 acres of designated parkland would be divided into nine different park sites. Park Site 1 had 36 acres for development under that plan, however, due to the arena parking lot and the SoCal Sports Complex, the park site only has 19 acres currently available for development.

“Many of the park sites are impacted by the SoCal Sports Complex, which is an interim use, so we will have to adapt and adjust over time as to how we’re able to proceed with those other parks,” said City Manager Deanna Lorson.

Other plans for the property include retail uses, residential apartments, a future hotel, road improvements throughout the area and a pedestrian promenade with connections.

To reconcile any discrepancies created between the El Corazon Specific Plan and the 2019 Parks Master Plan, the city will also provide additional opportunities for public input on the park’s design.

Overall the city has allocated $547,814 from its park impact fee fund for the Park Site 1 design project, with $476,360 going toward the design and $71,454 for staff time and incidentals.

The city attempted to apply for Proposition 68 grant funding, but Lorson said because the state received about 10 times as many applications as money it had to offer, other projects that scored higher with the state received the funding instead. She noted that staff plans to continue applying for other potential state and federal grants to help fund the park’s construction.

“This will be a costly project,” Lorson said.

Schmidt Design Group has designed several parks throughout the county, from the Poinsettia Community Park pickleball courts in Carlsbad to Walnut Grove Community Park in San Marcos, and the San Diego State University Mission Valley River Park that is currently under construction.

Joan Bockman, president of the Friends of El Corazon group, is thrilled to see Park Site 1’s design phase move forward with Schmidt Design Group.

“We’ve poured over many of their drawings and are very aware of their capabilities,” Bockman told Council. “We’re happy to be going through a more formal design process with someone of that caliber.”

Though it will be expensive, the city manager is confident that the park will be built within the next three years.