Major changes at Balboa Park: What’s new at San Diego’s ‘crown jewel’

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SAN DIEGO — More than a dozen improvement projects are underway or already finished at Balboa Park, a major investment in the sprawling public space known as “San Diego’s crown jewel.”

Mayor Todd Gloria led a tour of the projects Thursday as the city sought to drum up excitement about the facelift, which officials are calling the “Balboa Park Renaissance.”

The tour started in the southernmost Palisades area of the park, where the Balboa Park Committee of 100 — a nonprofit support group for the space — is revamping the San Diego Automotive Museum, Municipal Gym and soon-to-be-opened Comic-Con Museum. The latter will have a soft opening next weekend, just in time for Comic-Con Special Edition.

The second stop on the tour was the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages, which showcase national traditions from dozens of cultures. Nine new cottages were completed in August 2021 to provide homes for the nations of Chamorros, India, Peru, Panama, Philippines, Mexico, India and Palestine.

The mayor next made his way to the Mingei International Museum, which recently completed a $55 million renovation and remodel. There are free public areas that families can check out throughout the ground floor.

The tour then highlighted the Botanical Building, familiar to San Diegans as the structure next to the iconic Lily Pond. Construction starts in January on a “complete rebuild” that will “restore the iconic structure to its original 1915 grandeur, including the reinstallation of historic elements and architectural features,” according to the city.

Finally, Gloria visited the landmark Moreton Bay Fig Tree across from the Casa del Prado. A new viewing platform next to the 106-year-old tree was completed last spring.

Officials have plans to rehabilitate Casa del Prado — a reconstruction of buildings from the 1915 Panama-California Exposition that led to much of the park’s development. That project will include “restoration of its beloved ornamentation and other building improvements, including ADA upgrades,” the city said.

“When people think of San Diego, one of the first places their minds take them is Balboa Park,” Gloria said during Thursday’s tour. “We owe it to residents and visitors alike to make sure the reality matches the idea.”

In a news release, the city listed other improvements to Balboa Park:

Check out the links throughout this story for more on each attraction.

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