Otay Mesa Land Port of Entry Modernization and Expansion*

San Diego, California

Gruen Associates is part of the Design-Build team for the expansion and modernization of the Otay Mesa Land Port of Entry located in San Diego, California. Gruen Associates was the Executive Architect, Land Use Planner, and Landscape Architect, working alongside Design Architect, Jones Studio and the joint venture team of Atkinson/Clark Construction.

The General Services Administration’s (GSA) Otay Mesa Land Port of Entry, connecting San Diego to Tijuana, Mexico is the third-busiest crossing on the Mexico-United States border, and the busiest when it comes to commercial truck traffic.

This project, part of GSA’s Design Excellence Program, builds out an undeveloped 9.9-acre lot to the east of the existing port, adds new buildings along the port perimeter and renovates some existing facilities. The Otay Mesa Land Port of Entry is projected to be a LEED Gold and Net Zero Energy project, in addition to SITES Silver.

The project includes re-orienting the port’s commercial vehicle traffic, additional commercial vehicle processing lanes, booths and canopies, new Hazardous Materials facilities, and a new 34,000-SF Commercial Annex Building that will house public-facing operations of Customs and Border Protection as well as office spaces for both Customs and Border Protection the Food and Drug Administration. A 13,000-SF US Department of Agriculture Plant Inspection building and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration bus inspection building are also part of the port expansion.

The approach to the planning and design of the port modernization and expansion was based on three core tenets.

Intuitive Movement – Realign circulation patterns of both vehicles and pedestrians into a more natural path, allowing for increased functionality and intuitive wayfinding. This serves to increase port capacity, reduce wait times, and improve the overall satisfaction of drivers and pedestrians.

Responsible Utility – Sustainability was core to the design approach. Existing facilities are re-used where possible. Landscaping in local plant palettes creates visual continuity across a large site. Simple and locally manufactured materials are used in unconventional compositions with minimal applied finishes to increase durability, reduce maintenance, and celebrate their natural beauty.

Respectful Experience – The new port design needed to serve the needs of a broad constituency, including: port staff, users, and the neighboring community. A goal was to balance the need for the facility to be secure, while feeling welcoming, approachable and easy to navigate. The new design creates a beautiful, safe and streamlined cross-border experience through its architecture, landscape and public art.

* Gruen Associates is the Executive Architect in association with the Design Architect.