Ernest Hahn was a developer and philanthropist, who was born in 1919. Ernest founded Hahn Inc., which is now Hahn Co. He built malls and shopping centers in 18 states across the country. He changed the way malls were designed and the role they played in the community. They were a place not only to shop, but to interact and socialize with the community. The malls he built were generally huge and elaborate, with multiple floors and even some with skating rinks. His accomplishments lead him to become one of America’s wealthiest men.
Mr. Hahn was born to hard working immigrant parents in New York City. His mother had come from Vienna and his father came from Germany. The family moved to California when Ernest was 2 and chose Los Angeles as their new home. Throughout his life, Hahn wore many hats and had many great accomplishments that he is still well remembered for. While working as a bank messenger for Jack Northrop, he became a cost estimator for Northrop Aviation and studied engineering. Ernest bravely joined the US Navy and served during World War II. When the war was over, Ernest began doing construction and Hahn-St. John General Contracting Company was born in Hawthorne, California. This began an era in which he would develop projects that would make him into a legend. The company became Hahn Inc. in the late ’50s. In 1967, he built La Cumbre Plaza in Santa Barbara, which was the first regional mall he built. He went on to build many retail shopping centers across the nation, generating millions and developing malls unlike any that had been seen before. The company was sold to Trizec for $267 million in 1980, however, he remained on the board as chairman until his death in 1992.
Thanks to Ernest, between the years of 1950 and 1980, the company had opened three shopping centers a year. In the ‘80s, Palm Springs saw a boom in growth and Hahn made the most of it. He built their first regional shopping center in 1982.
The History of Horton Plaza
One of his greatest accomplishments was his role in a project that would bring downtown San Diego back to life. After over a decade of planning and construction, San Diego opened Horton Plaza, built by Ernest, in 1985, as a major downtown redevelopment project. Horton Plaza is a 6.5 block, multi-level retail shopping center that is accredited by some for the rebirth of downtown.
Hahn was on the board of trustees at both University of San Diego and USC, where there is a center called the Ernest and Jean Hahn University Center. According to Palm Springs Life, “One of the areas he has pioneered is the concept that malls should have diverse uses and not be simply “clanging cash registers.” Libraries, skating rinks, theaters and many other facilities are included with shops in the mixed-use malls.” He saw great success in his careers and has lead his company to be one that will thrive through the ages. He saw things differently and not only wanted more, but delivered. His projects were major developments that forever changed the concept of shopping malls. We remember and honor Ernest Hahn today, as one of the greats of construction and one of San Diego’s greatest businessmen.
The Future of Horton Plaza
If you’ve traveled through dowtown San Diego recently, you may have noticed the construction underway at Horton Plaza. The construction is a $16.7 million project, including an “Urban Plaza”, as well as beautification and restoration the historic park and fountain adjacent to the private mall property.
- 53,000 square foot venue hosting more than 200 events per year
- Three food & beverage Pavilions with trellised patios
- ArtsTix booth selling tickets to local theaters and other San Diego attractions
- Cabrillo arch-style Amphitheater
- Historic landmark fountain, built in 1910. One of San Diego’s oldest civic landmarks
- Interactive pop-jet fountain
- Iconic Luminaries, 23 foot tall color-changing light sculptures
- Complimentary guest WiFI
View this amazing timelapse video of the construction:
If you’re looking for property for sale in the Horton Plaza/downtown area, give us a call at (619) 825-1974 We look forward to the new and improved Horton Plaza!