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Mingei Leads For House Of Charm

Panel Recommends Shared Space For S.D. Art Institute

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Garnering the recommendation of an eight-member advisory panel and the City Manager's office, the Mingei International Museum of World Folk Art is the early winner in the competition to occupy the House of Charm in Balboa Park.

The city will spend $5 million refurbishing the building's exterior, leaving the interior to the tenants.

Also doing well in the chase for space in the 48,000-square-foot structure is the San Diego Art Institute which has occupied the House of Charm for 34 years and is recommended for a sublease.

Solving the space problems of Mingei and retaining the Art Institute, though, would leave the Old Globe Theater looking for expansion space. And the Children's Museum, while recommended for another park location, would not be able to move into Balboa Park for five or more years.

The Children's Museum would be located in the Federal Building in the Palisades area at the south end of the park. The building now houses the municipal gym. The adopted Balboa Park Master Plan calls for moving the gym outside the park, but not until sometime in the years 1994 to 1998.

In his report on the House of Charm, Coleman Conrad, deputy city manager, said there are no other uses contemplated for the Federal Building and that placing a children's museum in the building "would be a marvelous addition to the park."

As to whether the removal of the gym to a new location can be hurried along, Conrad said the possibility will be addressed in a financial plan expected to go before the council in the spring.

Councilman Bob Filner, whose district includes the park and who has been closely involved in the master planning, said the city should address the Old Globe and Children's Museum issues at the same time it tackles the House of Charm.

"If we accept this recommendation, and my tendency is to go with such a committee, I would like to see No. 1 the Children's Museum situation with the Federal Building sped up," Filner said. "I think we ought to move the gym as rapidly as possible. The city is talking with City College in discussions over the new Civic Center. There are discussions involving a new sports complex and I would like to see those move much quicker.

"The second (problem) is the Old Globe situation," he said. "It is going to get very controversial. Forget the merits of their proposal for a minute; putting them in the House of Charm would have solved some problems down the line. I think their original expansion plans contradict the master plan. The question is how big a push they are going to put on for expansion. If we don't put them into the House of Charm then we are going to have to come to grips with their expansion plans."

Filner will get his chance to comment on the proposal on Sept. 27 when the item comes before the council's Public Facilities and Recreation Committee on which he sits. Before that, the report is scheduled for review by the Balboa Park Committee this Monday and the Park and Recreation Board Sept. 21.

A big booster of putting the Children's Museum in the House of Charm is Mayor Maureen O'Connor. She discussed the idea during her 1989 State of the City Address at which time she also declared 1989 to be the Year of the Child.

O'Connor was not at City Hall yesterday and her spokesman, Paul Downey, said the mayor had not seen the advisory committee's report.

"Her feelings are the House of Charm is an ideal spot for the Children's Museum," Downey said. Until the mayor had reviewed the report, Downey said he could not comment further.

When the March 12 deadline arrived for responses to a Request For Proposals to occupy space in the House of Charm, the city had received seven proposals. Of the seven, the Children's Museum, Mingei and Art Institute came out best in the eyes of the committee. The remaining four were from the Hall of Champions, Institute of American Music, Old Globe and Worldbeat Productions. Here's ' what the report says about those.

• Old Globe: "Discussions have been held with Old Globe officials relative to other options that may be available to the Globe to satisfy most of its needs by reconstruction within the existing leasehold and within the spirit of the policy framework of the adopted Balboa Park Master Plan. The manager recommends that these options be fully explored in conjunction with development of a precise plan for the Prado area."

• Hall of Champions: "An alternative would be for the Hall to expand into the basement area now occupied by the Model Railroad Museum. This option, however, is only viable if the museum is willing to relocate (to the basement of the House of Charm). The museum's current lease is for 21,570 square feet and does not expire until the year 2006."

• Institute of American Music: "The primary goal of the Institute is to find a home for the 'Mighty Wurlitzer Organ' which is now housed at the California Theater ... The organ is an impressive instrument but we are unable to recommend a site for it in Balboa Park. The instrument does not lend itself to shared space."

• Worldbeat Productions: "This proposal offers an interesting opportunity to enhance the cultural diversity of Balboa Park. The group had originally expressed interest in occupying the second water tank in the Pepper Grove area ... It is the manager's recommendation that demolition of the water tank be held in abeyance pending development of a precise plan for this area of the park and that full consideration be given to Worldbeat and other potential 'users."

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