Friday, March 21, 2008 | As executive director of the NTC Foundation, I want to clarify a few misunderstandings, as well as errors, in the letter from Elly Dotseth of the Clay Artists of San Diego, and the posting from my colleague Chris Hall regarding the NTC Foundation’s work that appeared in Wednesday’s voiceofsandiego.org.
First, I want to say that the NTC Foundation has been extraordinarily successful in renovating the first six of our 26 historic buildings at the former Naval Training Center, and reopening them as a NTC Promenade, a new Civic, Arts and Cultural District for San Diego.
Since completing these buildings in December 2006 at a cost of $32 million secured by the Foundation staff and board, we now have 25 nonprofit, civic and community organizations in residence paying below market rents, have hosted over 1,300 events, rehearsals, festivals, workshops and receptions and have welcomed more than 250,000 people onsite.
In addition, each week, hundreds of school children use the NTC Promenade campus as a learning laboratory. People are learning, creating and being entertained. All our Phase I tenants have leases that are renewable, and our business projections demonstrate that as we complete renovations to the remaining 20 buildings and fill them with artists and arts groups (at below market rates), and arts businesses at commercial rates, we can continue to offer a long-term affordable home for San Diego’s creative community.
Among our 20 remaining buildings are 12 barracks buildings, some of which we are looking to create an Artists Row, a home to artists working, training, exhibiting and selling. Although we haven’t completed schematic designs to determine final renovation costs, Ms. Dotseth was incorrect in saying the cost will be $6 million but may likely be closer to $1.5 million per barrack — still a big investment, but one that we can finance and still offer below market rents, which by the way is not part of any agreement with the city of San Diego, but a mandate the volunteer NTC Foundation board wishes to follow in order to develop a thriving cultural district.
Once we know the final costs of any of our buildings, we will then proceed to lease space at rates that make sense for the artists and for the NTC Foundation, which is fully responsible for operating these buildings without any subsidy from the city.
No buildings have been promised to any of the 80+ prospective artists and artisan groups — nor any art supply store — and the process is open for every viable prospect to be considered.
As Christopher Hall pointed out, we’re very fortunate that San Diego has so many vibrant neighborhoods with a wide range of building spaces that are available at rates where artists can make a home. We look forward to having NTC Promenade reach its full potential over the next several years and be San Diego’s next great destination for arts and culture. This is a complicated but rewarding real estate development project, one that has a nonprofit sensibility and a business mind that in the end will benefit San Diego for generations to come!