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Liberty Station?s cultural district starts trolling for tenants

When the City of San Diego started planning its vision for the former Naval Training Center, it knew that it wanted a cultural heart for its new urban village. So the plans for Liberty Station have included space for a cultural district since the beginning. Twenty-six of the original buildings were set aside to house this mixed-use center for the fine and performance arts. The goal of the cultural district is to attract both residents and tourists to the area and provide support to surrounding businesses, restaurants and attractions.

The NTC Foundation was formed as a 501(C)(3) nonprofit corporation to define the city?s vision for this center. The foundation?s four full-time employees have been working with San Diegans through focus groups, community meetings and research to create a workable plan for this valuable real estate. Interim Executive Director, Marc Kasky took over in June bringing his experience with a similar project at Ft. Mason in Northern California to San Diego.

In July, NTC Foundation announced that it was naming the new cultural and scientific district Promenade Centre and beginning to market the center to prospective tenants. The foundation is now in the process of finalizing its lease with the city, starting a capital campaign, meeting with potential tenants, developing a calendar of events and beginning renovations.

The San Diego based architectural firm of Roesling Nakamura was picked by the NTC Foundation in July, 2003 to supervise the adaptive reuse and historic preservation project. The firm will oversee the renovation of 26 buildings, all of them part of the National Registry of Historic Places, into working space for its new tenants. The buildings were formerly used as barracks, a regimental headquarters, school and administration buildings, a Naval exchange office, a library and a 1,836-seat auditorium.

The NTC Foundation hopes to attract creativity centers for art, culture, scientific exploration and technology. Luce Auditorium will provide space for performing and visual arts. The Foundation is in talks with a group that want to create a family playhouse in the space with performances and rehearsal space for various groups.

There will also be festival grounds with public art and sculpture, meeting places, working artist studios, performing arts studios and non-profit office space. Current ideas for the spaces under discussion include a California Art Museum showcasing the California scene painters and a Culinary Arts school. The Culinary Arts school would provide professional instruction and public classes. The first tenants will be announced in January 2004.

The first phase development will also include an historical museum preserving the history of the Naval Training Center and its 70 years of service to the country and contributions to San Diego.

Approximately 350,000 square feet will be available for individual, non-profit and limited for profit tenants. Prospective tenants are being encouraged to plan for events in the Promenade open space and to provide free offerings for the public. Spaces should ready for occupancy in early 2005.

The City of San Diego Redevelopment Agency has executed a Rehabilitation Grant Agreement with the NTC Foundation to provide funds to the Phase I renovation of the buildings in the Promenade Centre. The grant of $5.85 million will be used to bring the first four historic buildings up to code prior to tenant occupation. Phase I includes 13 buildings and will cost a total of $18 million. The balance of the money will be generated through fundraising and matching funds programs. The NTC Foundation has also been selected to receive a $300,000 grant from the State Office of Historic Preservation under the California Heritage Fund Grant Program. This money will be used to renovate Building Five of the project.

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