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An aerial view of the former Pacific View Elementary School on Third Street in Encinitas, set to become the Pacific View Arts Center in 2024. Courtesy photo
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Pacific View site’s mission as arts center comes into focus

ENCINITAS — Twenty years after Pacific View Elementary School closed, the city is getting closer to giving the downtown building new life as an arts and cultural center.

The city bought the property from Encinitas Union School District in 2014 for $10 million. Originally, the city said the property would be independently funded and managed, and in 2017, the Encinitas Arts, Culture and Ecology Alliance expressed interest in maintaining and redeveloping the site.

EACEA volunteers did some renovations, like fresh paint inside and out, but it never took off. In 2022, the city dusted off the renovation idea, starting with determining what land uses would not require additional permits. They settled on an arts center, approved a contractor and broke ground in December 2022.

“Probably what sold me more than anything was taking a tour of the building when it was deconstructed,” City Council member Bruce Ehlers said.

Ehlers, who spent seven years on the Planning Commission, said he was impressed with the concrete floor poured 70 years ago, the continuous 40-foot-long ceiling boards and the original metal window frames.

“I think it’s a gem,” he said.

The $4.5 million renovation maintains the building’s character and is set to complete in about six months, or May 2024. Now, attention is shifting to how the center will operate.

On Nov. 15, the City Council approved a mission statement and vision statement for what will be the Pacific View Arts Center.

The stated mission is to “empower the community to cultivate artistic expression,” and the vision is “opening windows to ignite creative expression.”

The city wants the center to offer resources across the many meanings of “creative expression” and “artistic expression.” It will have two rooms for visual arts, two for performing arts, two for music and broadcast, one for fiber arts, and one for literary healing and floral arts.

“What makes my heart really warm and strong, I’ve noticed the strength of the civic arts programs soaring in Encinitas,” said Jennifer Marakovits, who sits on the city’s Commission for the Arts.

A recent online survey of 603 households, 506 of which were in Encinitas, showed that 98% of adults and 93% of children were interested in attending classes, workshops and camps at the new center. About half of the respondents — 53% of adults and 47% of children — chose the response, “Yes, looking forward to it!” in the survey.

The ad-hoc committee for the center also recommended offering scholarships, having diverse instructors and ensuring classes are accessible regardless of ability within the arts or other specialized needs.

The Commission for the Arts will come back in the spring with an operational plan and proposed budget.

“The thought was to be conservative,” said Collette Murphy, arts administrator for the city. “Make sure we have what we need to ensure success, but, again, conservative.”

After a year of operation, the city will consider potential expansions like outdoor markets, more course offerings, and partnerships with private entities and nonprofit organizations.

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