balboa park

Balboa Park's Most-Photographed Spot is Getting a $21M Makeover

The Botanical Building is undergoing a major $20 million-plus restoration

NBC Universal, Inc.

There are a lot of people standing on tiptoes and peeking through a covered fence in Balboa Park lately, for good reason: Visitors are trying to get a glimpse of one of the park’s most iconic attractions, the Botanical Building, as it undergoes renovations.

The structure, which is now over a hundred years old, was closed to the public in early 2022, but not everyone eager to see its splendor was alerted.

“We came over here to see it, and now it’s not open, so it’s a minor disappointment,” Arizona resident Tom Shaw said this week.

He's not alone.

It only takes a few minutes standing in front of the building to catch one, two, or three curious people peeling back the green mesh on the fence to see what has become of the building.

According to a city of San Diego official, the renovation is now in Phase 1 of a two-part project, which is being led by the city’s Engineering and Capital Projects Department. In a statement sent to NBC 7, the officials said this phase will include “structural upgrades, reconstructing the historic window arcades, expanding walkways to allow for better access to all users, two new building additions on the north side and interior planting.”

Tractors are now busy beeping, crushing and dropping debris where thousands of plants used to be on display. Most of them were replanted throughout the park, while others were moved to an offsite nursery. Some larger ones, however, remain protected on-site.

Much of the building needed attention, as water damage and corrosion took their course over the years. A big question in visitors’ minds; Will it look different?

A rendering of the to-be completed renovation. Image courtesy of the city of San Diego.

“There will be several significant aesthetic changes visitors may notice once the project is complete," according to the statement sent to NBC 7. “The lattice will be replaced with brand new redwood, which will restore the roof's natural red color. The lower portions of the lattice will be removed and replaced with large stucco window arcades that were part of the original 1915 design before they were removed in the 1950s. LED lighting fixtures will be installed in the interior of the building. And there will be two new small building additions on the north side and restoration of the north entryway.”

The budget for the first phase of the project is $21,453,000, according to the city, which is a mix of state funds, capital outlay, regional park improvements, and commercial paper.

The first phase of the project is expected to be complete by December 2023. The second phase, which includes landscaping and irrigation among other things, does not yet have a timeline.

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