By Nicole Sours Larson, The Beacon. Forwarded by Dick Blaisdell

More than three years of planning reached fruition when the Naval Training Center (NTC) Foundation kicked-off its capital campaign and 2004 preservation work on the historic core of the former naval activity, under the direction of architect Ralph Roesling of Roesling Nakamura.

The foundation is charged with restoring 26 buildings as a civic, arts and cultural center after City formally transferred the buildings. Buoyed by grants of $5.85 million in redevelopment funds from the City and $300,000 from the California Office of Historic Preservation, the foundation has launched a $15 million capital campaign to fund the first phase of redevelopment.

“We have a very good start on the fund-raising and we have private prospects that will materialize,” said Marc Kasky, interim executive director of the NTC Foundation.

A non-profit culinary school sponsored and operated by unions, will provide training to employees to upgrade their skills and also offer cooking classes to the public. Other non-profit organizations considering relocating to the Promenade Center include a naval museum, a Mexican and Latin American art museum, a dance company consortium, a family playhouse theatre and a children’s undersea camp. There will be at least one restaurant in the center, as well as several cafés, in addition to restaurants located in the adjoining retail center.

The foundation plans to turn the old Naval Training Center library into “flexible mixed-use space” for temporary exhibitions, private and corporate functions, weddings and meetings, said Marianne Gregson, director of marketing and communications for the foundation. Meeting and classroom space will also be available to outside groups throughout the complex. “We would love to have a consortium of artists’ studios,” she said.

An added advantage to the Promenade Center is that the City requires the foundation to offer below-market rents, at “always affordable rates,” she said. At least one building is currently planned to be office space for small non-profits.

Much of the model for the Promenade Center comes from Fort Mason, the base conversion project in San Francisco, where Kasky served as executive director for 20 years, developing and running the non-profit cultural center. Prior to becoming interim executive director for the foundation, Kasky served as a consultant to The Corky McMillin Companies for planning the cultural center and setting up the foundation.

Point Loma resident Ann Walker, a San Francisco native, is enthusiastic about the NTC Foundation and the Promenade Center. Her interest in the cultural center mushroomed once she learned of Kasky’s role. “I was very familiar with what he’d done at Fort Mason, and how much the project had done for the city. It’s for the people who live in the city… and over the years it’s proven itself,” she said.

The organization she founded, the California Art Museum, settled on an old barracks as a suitable site. Newly organized, the museum will have as its main focus the watercolors of the early California school of scene painters, a style originating in California. She has determined that only one major museum of watercolors, located in Sweden, exists in the world.

An artist herself, Walker developed the concept for the museum after serving on the foundation’s Civic Communications Committee, whose members were charged with developing innovative ideas for using the buildings to attract both local residents and visitors. “We intend to be just a visual arts museum dealing with painted or sculpted surfaces, watercolors, oils, murals and sculpture, not decorative arts,” she said. Kasky urged local residents to become involved in the cultural center.

“The biggest and most important challenge… is to communicate to the public-at-large that this is their project, and its success, will be greatly influenced by their involvement,” Kasky explained. “Their ideas, the participation of their organizations, and contacts they can make for the project are all important.”

Of the untold thousands of U.S. Navy personnel who trained or served at NTC San Diego before it fell to the axe of base closure in recent times, some may welcome the opportunity to have their name embedded on a brick in the main promenade now under construction. Information is available on the Foundation Web site at http://www.ntcpromenade.org/news.php.