Todd Gloria and Toni Atkins announce state funding for restoration of buildings in Balboa Park and Liberty Station. Photo by Chris Jennewein

Balboa Park’s iconic Botanical Building will be restored and Building 178 in Liberty Station turned into a performing arts center with $17.6 million in state funding announced Friday.

Sen. Toni Atkins and Assemblymember Todd Gloria gathered in front of the park’s lily pond with dozens of San Diego arts and cultural leaders to announce the special funding contained in the state budget passed on Thursday.

“We are here today to celebrate some significant investments in San Diego’s arts and cultural communities,” said Atkins, whose leadership Gloria credited with securing the funding.

“Times are good. This is the time to make investments,” said Gloria.

The money will be allocated for three major projects:

  • $6.2 million to address rust, termite damage and “years of deferred maintenance” at the 1915-vintage Botanical Building
  • $400,000 to cover a budget shortfall so that the the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages can be restored and expanded to include Mexico and Peru and seven others
  • $9 million to restore “dilapidated” Building 178 at Roosevelt and Truxton roads in Liberty Station and convert it into a performing arts center

Joyce Gattas, chair of the Balboa Park Conservancy, said that restoration of the Botanical Building, with its 2,100 plant varieties, will help make San Diego a “global botanical destination.”

“It’s a milestone and it’s a magical moment for the park,” she said.

Construction fencing is already up around the International Cottages, but Eugenie King, president of the House of Pacific Relations, said the state funding was crucial to starting work on time.

“We want to increase the number of cottages to show the diversity of San Diego,” she said.

Alan Ziter, executive director of the NTC Foundation, said turning Building 178 into a performing arts center is a key component of plans for the arts district at Liberty Station.

“This type of major give really helps us with one of the most complicated buildings,” he said. “We’re fulfilling the community vision for a vibrant arts and cultural district.”

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.