SAN DIEGO — The San Diego City Council Tuesday unanimously approved a 20-year lease that will pave the way for a museum and community center at a city-owned property adjacent to Chicano Park.
The Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center has for several decades sought to move into the 9,890-square-feet building at 1960 National Ave., which formerly housed an adult education campus.
The vacant property will allow the 48-year-old nonprofit to expand services, programs and exhibitions related to the art, history and sciences of the Americas, with an emphasis on U.S.-Mexico border region cultures.
Chicano Park has gotten new playground equipment and bathrooms in recent years, “but there was always something missing. And this is the piece that was missing,” City Councilman David Alvarez said.
“I want to thank you for saying ‘yes’ to the community this time because this community has heard ‘no’ a lot more than it has heard ‘yes’ over the years,” he told his colleagues. “Chicano Park is what it is today because of the community… The museum and cultural center will be successful because of the community.”
The center will include a gallery and exhibition space; conference rooms; an archival room; a collections space; and educational training rooms for arts, history, science and hands-on activities.
Under the lease, the Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center will pay the city’s annual nonprofit administrative rent, which is currently $3,597 per year.
The nonprofit will be responsible for all maintenance, repairs and capital improvements at the property. However, “if adequate funds are available,” the city may improve systems that “benefit the city,” such as roof, plumbing and electrical systems.
The city has already set aside $600,000 to get the facility up and running.
City staff engaged in direct lease negotiations with the Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center due to the public benefit expected from the project, and its unique alignment with the character of Chicano Park and the surrounding community, said April McCusker with the city Real Estate Assets Department.
Chicano Park was established in 1970 under the Coronado Bridge in Barrio Logan. Colorful murals depict historical events and civil rights leaders on bridge pylons throughout the space, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2016.
Initial negotiations to create the park resulted in an agreement that the National Avenue building would eventually be operated for community use.
In 1980, the Chicano Park Steering Committee allowed the building to be used for adult education. The committee resumed lease conversations with the city in 2015 after school officials vacated the building.