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The arts mean business in Escondido

Escondido's growing reputation as a cultural center is attracting more businesses, visitors and shoppers. The city's cultural anchor is the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. The Center consistently offers an aggressive lineup of performances throughout the year and may be likened to the city of San Diego's investment in Horton Plaza to anchor downtown development.

Escondido is enjoying the "build it and they will come" aftermath of its $86 million investment. Currently, the center brings an estimated $10 million annually into the local economy with its visual and performing arts and educational programs.

"Art and culture have combined to be an important component of Escondido's economy," said Mayor Lori Hold Pfeiler. "As our reputation grows as a cultural center, we're seeing more creative enterprises and artists moving into our city as well as businesses and industries that appreciate proximity and access to the arts."

"We have embraced our history here," said Mayor Pro Tem June Rady. "We have preserved it. And we have added the culture that makes the mix and Escondido's future probably the brightest and the boldest in North County."

The latest to see the Escondido light is Mingei International who has acquired and is undertaking a $3 million renovation of the old J.C. Penney building on Grand Avenue to open its first satellite museum this summer. The museum's extensive permanent collection of art objects from cultures throughout the world will be available to the Escondido satellite, as well as the main museum in Balboa Park. Not only will the satellite museum feature an exhibition gallery, but it will also provide a multimedia education center, a museum store, a marketing center and a design and preparation center for Mingei's traveling exhibits.

Also arriving on the scene early next year is an international attraction to visitors -- "Queen Califia's Magical Garden" celebrating the diversity of cultures that formed California. Located in the Irish Sankey Arboratum in Kit Carson Park, it is 120 feet in diameter. Mosaic 6-feet to 10-feet high snakes encircle the outside walls. The inside contains a maze, which leads you into a courtyard with a sculpture of Queen Califia standing on the back of an eagle in the center. The courtyard will have a number of totems reflecting different cultural images. Anticipated completion is Spring 2003.

"The Mingei satellite and the Niki de Saint Phalle sculpture garden are two more major attractions that will further enhance our city," Holt Pfeiler said. "Add these to the (California Center for the Arts, Escondido) and all of the fine galleries, antiques shops, artists and museums that are currently in place and you can see why the arts mean business in Escondido."

Escondido's Redevelopment Plan of 1984 focused on revitalizing the urban core of the city. Approximately $100 million and 18 years later, Escondido is continuing to build on its historic downtown, its award-winning civic center complex and numerous cultural amenities for the city.

Case is manager of the city of Escondido Economic Development Division.

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