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Escondido is a city full of charm

Few cities in San Diego place as much emphasis on the arts as Escondido.

With its $86 million California Center for the Arts, Escondido, the city has become a Mecca for the arts and has stimulated millions of dollars of private investment in the city's core. Comprised of a conference center, theater, concert hall and museum, the venue hosts hundreds of thousands of patrons each year, accommodating guests from not only the San Diego region, but also southern Riverside and Orange counties.

A former Montgomery Wards and commercial strip center located across the street from the Center for the Arts was redeveloped earlier this year. In January of 2004, the Signature Escondido Stadium 16 cinemas was erected, the first part of a six-acre, $25 million redevelopment project. The theater changed hands last September and is now operated by the Regal Entertainment Group.

Located on the corner of Escondido Boulevard and West Valley Parkway, the new theater is joined by a branch of La Jolla Bank and eateries, including Fat Burger, Starbucks, Coldstone Creamery, Pablito's, Signature Bagel & Deli, Starbucks, Café Socrates, Red Brick Pizza, Juice It Up and Ichizuki Japanese Restaurant.

In addition, a slew of condominiums and town homes built by Barratt Homes will contribute to the newly renovated area. These new housing structures will be located on Woodward Avenue.

Just before the turn of 2004, the Mingei International Museum North County Satellite opened its doors to the public. An extension of the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park, this 21,000-square-foot venue cost approximately $4 million to renovate with most of the funds coming from the city of Escondido. The county of San Diego and private donors also gave large monetary contributions to make the project possible.

Escondido offers housing for all different income levels. From apartments to horse ranches, the city offers something for everybody. A new housing trend called "At Home Downtown" began in 2003. Halfway through the year, developers began to focus on building higher-density, urban residential products, including condominiums, town homes and row homes, hoping to stimulate more home ownership in the area. According to the city's Web site, approximately 200 gross acres of industrial land will be developed in the near future. The Escondido Research and Technology Center will feature a 550-mega watt Sempra power plant. The planned industrial and business park will provide land for new technology-based businesses and 4,000 to 5,000 new jobs.

Public and private investments are coming in for the new Mercado Business District, bordered by Valley Parkway to the north, Pine Street/Centre City Parkway to the east and Quince Street to the west. Two restaurants were built in 2003 and new office buildings will add to the center. The area consists of 11 acres.

The East Valley Business and Shopping Area begins east of Palomar Medical Center and is bordered by Washington Avenue to the north, Citrus Avenue to the east and the hospital professional zone to the south. Escondido Charter High School stands in this area and, while open to students, is yet to be fully completed. Funds are needed to complete a Youth Arts Community Theatre and Gymnasium on the campus.

Escondido's very own Chamber of Commerce is in the midst of building a new center. Currently on a temporary site, the chamber will move back to a renovated, 4,600-square-foot site on 720 North Broadway. According to Chamber CEO Harvey Mitchell, they raised $160,000 of the project by saving money for 10 years and obtained an additional $250,000 through a fund-raiser. The 4,600 square-feet of space will also be available for use by California State University, San Marcos and Palomar College.

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