There’s a new pot of money for arts and culture organizations to expand or rehab their downtown facilities.

A committee of the Centre City Redevelopment Corp., the agency that oversees downtown redevelopment, this week blessed the new program, which designates a total of $500,000 annually to fixing up arts and culture buildings in the city core. The new program will be presented to the full board Jan. 26.

The new program comes at a time when the mayor has halted the overall city program for including sculptural elements in construction projects. That hiatus affects CCDC projects, too. But this new money is to be used only for expanding, rehabilitating or constructing buildings and facilities, not for expenses like buying sculptures or paying staff salaries. The allotments range from $25,000 to $200,000 for any one project, but the organization must come up with other funds for 25 percent of whatever the project cost will be.

The money works as a no-interest loan that the organization can have forgiven if it meets certain achievements. A museum may have to pledge to keep its facility open a certain number of days per week, or a performance venue might have to attract a certain number of people throughout the year.

An arts organization that rents its space could still be eligible, as long as it had the cooperation of the property owner and a long enough lease agreement.

In the real estate boom market, high-rise developments pushed out some of the warehouses and more affordable studios that artists and arts organizations once inhabited, a point discussed in Wednesday’s meeting (audio here). Private groups like Space 4 Art have tried to turn that trend around, attracting artists to relocate to the East Village warehouse they converted last year.

“We’ve had arts and culture organizations come to us and say, ‘How can you help us?’” said Lucy Contreras, a CCDC planner overseeing the program said Thursday afternoon. “We really didn’t have a program to facilitate the retention of art and culture facilities downtown.”

Contreras said she expects to notify the public about the funds’ availability and start accepting proposals for projects in early March.

Correction: The original version of this post incorrectly stated that the board approved this plan; it was approved by a board committee and will go to the full board Jan. 26. We regret the error.

I’m the arts editor for VOSD. Please contact me directly at or 619.325.0531 and follow me on Twitter: @kellyrbennett.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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