balboa park

‘Palisades Plaza': City Opens New Pedestrian Area in Balboa Park

The pedestrian-friendly area is in the former site of the South Palisades parking lot near the San Diego Air & Space Museum

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Balboa Park is known for its outdoor areas and plazas. Now, there’s a new space for locals and visitors to enjoy there, inspired by the olden days of the San Diego landmark.

The City of San Diego – including current Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Mayor-Elect Todd Gloria and other city leaders – will officially unveil Wednesday a new pedestrian space at Balboa Park dubbed the “Palisades Plaza.”

The area is located at 2001 Pan American Plaza, at the site that formerly housed the South Palisades parking lot near the San Diego Air & Space Museum, San Diego Automotive Museum, the Mid-City Gymnasium and the Comic-Con Museum.

The city said the parking lot has been “reclaimed” in a way that is meant to restore the area into its original purpose back in 1935: A public plaza for all to enjoy.

Construction on the project began back in April – right as the coronavirus pandemic forced shutdowns across San Diego County and the world.

The city said the project was completed entirely by two departments: San Diego’s Transportation and Stormwater Department and Parks and Recreation.

Over the past 7 months, crews have removed the asphalt from the former South Palisades lot and upgraded the San Diego Trolley stop at the site. They’ve also enhanced the landscaping and planted new trees and installed some turf lawn areas.

The North Palisades parking lot was also repaved and the sidewalk and pedestrian curb ramps near the Palisades Plaza were also upgraded to meet the standards of the Americans With Disabilities Act, the city said Wednesday.

The city said funding for the new plaza is part of a larger $9.3 million initiative introduced last year that’s directed at improving the landmark’s critical infrastructure.

Other upgrades within this bigger plan include:

  • Botanical Building restoration
  • Morton Bay Fig Tree observation platform installation
  • New International Cottages construction
  • Mingei Museum roof replacement and façade improvements
  • Bea Evenson Fountain plumbing repair
  • Bud Kearns Memorial Pool renovation
  • Water and sewer replacement projects
  • Renovation of five Balboa Park comfort stations
  • Air and Space Museum roof replacement
  • Golf Course Drive roadway realignment and improvements and Pershing Drive bikeway improvements
  • Landscape and irrigation improvements

Now, with San Diego County still in the state’s purple tier and under tight coronavirus restrictions, Balboa Park looks a little different these days.

NBC 7's Melissa Adan walks you through a reminder of what it means to be on the state's most-restrictive coronavirus tier.

All of the landmark’s indoor museums and cultural institutions remain closed, for now. Many of the museums are still offering virtual programming and exhibitions.

Balboa Park’s outdoor spaces – like this new Palisades Plaza – are open to the public, but visitors must follow COVID-19 modifications and guidelines, including wearing a face mask, keeping 6 feet of social distance away from other visitors, and practicing frequent handwashing. The landmark put together this guide of what to know before you visit Balboa Park in the pandemic-era.

In addition to trails and outdoor walking areas, the Japanese Friendship Garden, San Diego Zoo and Spanish Village remain open to the public. Some restaurants and shops may also be open, and Balboa Park said this online calendar will list those locations and updates.

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