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SAN DIEGO — A 70-year-old sign atop the former Hotel Churchill in downtown San Diego was removed Tuesday, as part of a renovation project to convert the building at Ninth Avenue and C Street into an affordable housing complex.

The $20.5 million renovation project, which began in May, is designed to create 56 affordable units for homeless veterans, and eight each for youth aging out of foster care and adults in need of supportive care, according to the San Diego Housing Commission.

The commission considers the project to be a linchpin of its three-year strategy to reduce the number of homeless in San Diego.

According to the commission, the 32-foot by 10-foot sign will undergo repair work. A new frame will be built around the one-ton sign, which will be repainted, and new wiring and neon lights will be installed.

The sign will be hoisted back into place when the conversion work for the building is just about finished.

“Next year, this sign will once again rise into the San Diego skyline,” said Richard Gentry, the commission’s president and CEO. “It will serve as a symbol of the brighter future that will be provided here at the historical Hotel Churchill for homeless San Diegans.”

The 101-year-old building has been vacant since 2005, two years after it was designated as a local landmark. The commission acquired the structure four years ago, through a court settlement in a foreclosure case.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will provide supportive services for the ex-military residents of the building. The others will be cared for via $1.8 million in state funding that will be administered by the San Diego County Department of Mental Health.