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California News

$8 million plan to relaunch the closed Epicenter in Mira Mesa

Local authorities have an $8 million plan to revive the once-popular Mira Mesa Epicenter, a former concert hall and teen center that has become a dilapidated eyesore since being largely abandoned eight years ago. .

Officials say the revival of the Epicenter will be part of a wider development of the region; work is also expected to begin soon on $40 million of long-awaited upgrades to nearby Mira Mesa Community Park, including a pool complex and skate park.

The revival still requires several approvals from county and city officials, but could mark a positive turning point for a facility that has had a checkered and controversial history since it opened as Mira Mesa’s first public library in 1977.

The catalyst for its revival is the county’s $8 million money for design plans and construction — and, perhaps more importantly, the commitment of county officials to operate the 8,000-mile municipal facility. square feet as a teen-focused community center.

“Mira Mesa is one of the largest and most ethnically diverse communities in San Diego, and it’s been woefully underinvested for a very long time,” said County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, who leads recovery efforts. “I’m very excited that we can achieve this.”

While the revived Epicenter would offer programming and activities for people of all ages, it would be for teens only from 3-7 p.m. weekdays and 1-6 p.m. weekends.

The programs, which would target young people between the ages of 10 and 18, are expected to include tutoring, mentoring, career counselling, recreation, performing and visual arts.

The facility would also serve as a hub for the county’s Safe Destination Nights program, which coordinates events for teens in urban areas to keep them off the streets during critical hours.

Outside of teen hours, the Epicenter would offer gardening and cooking classes as well as intergenerational programs in coordination with the nearby senior center. It would also be available to hire for private events like birthdays and retirements.

City Council member Kent Lee, whose district includes Mira Mesa, said he greatly appreciates the county’s financial commitment and willingness to operate a revived epicenter.

He said the project is likely to boost community morale by renovating a dilapidated structure in a highly visible location.

“He’s been convicted all these years,” he said. Like Lawson-Remer, he said the ethnic diversity of Mira Mesa makes the planned purpose of the revived Epicenter particularly important and appropriate.

(Howard Lipin/For San Diego Union-Tribune)

He added that it would also serve as an important community space in a neighborhood whose population is expected to explode over the next 30 years.

A new community project approved last year by the city council would create enough new housing in Mira Mesa to increase the population from 78,000 to 143,000.

“This is a diverse and growing community with many young families who need community spaces to serve them,” Lee said.

The second phase of Mira Mesa Community Park, which sits adjacent to the Epicenter and Mira Mesa High School, will also fill a void in the neighborhood for recreational amenities.

Lee said residents of Mira Mesa have been forced to wait 18 years since the completion of the first phase of the park, which primarily includes sports fields. The second phase has been put on hold until enough developer impact fees are collected.

Lawson-Remer gave credit to the community for making Epicenter’s revival possible, explaining that she sought guidance through neighborhood surveys and other outreach efforts on how to spend money. county infrastructure money.

“It came from dozens, if not hundreds, of people in the community asking for something like this,” she said. “As Mira Mesa is the center of the county, this could serve the area.”

Dislodged cobblestones cluttered with dried eucalyptus leaves on the ground.

(Howard Lipin/For San Diego Union-Tribune)

The project is facing some opposition from a group of community members led by former school trustee Mitz Lee. They want the Epicenter to be transformed into a concert and performance hall.

Mitz Lee said the Epicenter failed as a teen center due to lack of interest from area teens. So it makes no sense to try the same thing again.

“Why invest $8 million in something that has already failed? ” she says.

Mitz Lee also criticized Lawson-Remer and other officials for calling their Epicenter relaunch plan a done deal when no lease was signed and no approvals were obtained.

Although the project was not fully approved by the county or city, county officials approved the $8 million and city officials gave the county access to the Epicenter for an entire year to assess installation. County officials also unveiled “concepts” in March.

Former council member Chris Cate, who now chairs the Mira Mesa Community Planning Group, said Mitz Lee’s proposal seems misguided since Mira Mesa High School is set to house a new performing arts hall.

He also pointed out that the Epicenter had once failed as a concert hall, mainly because it was too small.

“The county’s proposal to invest significant funds in rehabilitating this dilapidated building and establishing cohesive programming is the only workable plan that has been presented to our community,” Cate said.

In 2011, the children learned from professional musicians at the Blues Music Summer Camp at the Epicenter.

In 2011, the children learned from professional musicians at the Blues Music Summer Camp at the Epicenter.

(John Gastaldo / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

After serving as a branch library from 1977 to 1993, the building was transformed into a regional teen center run by the nonprofit Harmonium. When interest in teen programs waned, the facility was moved to an alcohol-free concert hall and performance space open to all ages.

Then, in 2015, Harmonium told city officials it was closing the Epicenter due to financial issues and what it called a “lack of interest” among local teenagers.

The city’s options for reviving the site were limited by the fact that Harmonium received $100,000 for roof and sewer repairs in 2013 through the city’s annual Community Development Block Grant allocation – a federal money earmarked for low-income areas and projects.

The use of this money meant that for five years the city could only contract the site to social service agencies aimed primarily at low- and moderate-income people.

A small portion of the Epicenter has long been occupied by elderly San Diego police volunteers. The county plan calls for volunteers to stay put and help make the revived Epicenter a safe place for teens.

County officials say renovations and construction could begin as early as next summer and a revived Epicenter could open in the summer of 2025.

California Daily Newspapers

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