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Art In The City Conference In San Diego

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Aired 9/2/10

This weekend, a conference will gather visionaries, developers, gallery owners, and creatives to discuss the role art can have in key urban areas. We'll talk with the conference organizers and speakers about developing arts districts in San Diego and look at what other cities have done successfully.

The Art in the City: Utilizing Art and Culture conference takes place this Saturday from 8- 5pm at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront as part of the Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair.

ALISON ST JOHN (Host): You’re listening to These Days in San Diego. I’m Alison St John in for Maureen Cavanaugh. We’ve been talking about vision on These Days, creating a vision for how San Diego's waterfront Embarcadero could be developed in a way to really use the magnificent natural assets that we’re blessed with. Sometimes it’s about more than architecture or physical spaces, it’s about what happens in those spaces and the creativity and excitement that’s generated there. This is Arts Month, and a conference called Art in the City is one of the events happening in downtown San Diego weekend, part of a major arts fair. And we have in studio with us David Malmuth, who’s the president of David Malmuth Development and he's hosting the conference. Thanks for being with us, David.

DAVID MALMUTH (President, David Malmuth Development LLC): It’s my pleasure.

ST JOHN: Also, we have with us Alan Ziter, who is the executive director of the NTC—that’s the Naval Training Center—Foundation. Alan, thanks for being here.

ALAN ZITER (Executive Director, NTC Foundation): Thank you.

ST JOHN: He’s done a lot already in terms of developing a neighborhood with the arts. And Scott White is the director of Scott White Contemporary Art. His gallery is participating in the art fair. Thank you for coming in, Scott.

SCOTT WHITE (Director, Scott White Contemporary Art): Thank you.

ST JOHN: So let’s just start, David, since we were talking about the Embarcadero right before the news and you have a kind of a vision about how to enliven the Embarcadero, not so much with, you know, whether you widen the street or the walkway, the promenade, or plant some jacarandas but more with arts and culture.

MALMUTH: Yeah.

ST JOHN: Talk a bit about your vision.

MALMUTH: Well, the notion is that we create a Waterfront Arts District and that we see our front door as the place celebrating all of the great art and performance and creativity that is San Diego. And, to me, that creates the opportunity for an ever-changing array of life and vitality and that brings locals because I think we should be creating a waterfront that’s for us first, and a waterfront that’s uniquely San Diego. And nothing says more about our uniqueness than our performing arts and our visual arts.

ST JOHN: Can you give us some example of the kind of things you imagine…

MALMUTH: Yes.

ST JOHN: …for this vision?

MALMUTH: Absolutely. Well, let’s start with the Navy Pier which shouldn’t be parking cars. I mean, they don’t need to have that kind of a view. That really should be for people. What I think needs to happen there is we need to create a beautiful green space and create performance not unlike Millennium Park has performance in the park and…

ST JOHN: In Chicago.

MALMUTH: In Chicago, right.

ST JOHN: Umm-hmm.

MALMUTH: Some sort of a bandshell that allows the various different performance organizations to have a place where they can touch the waterfront and people can enjoy it. I also think there should be a sensational visual icon at the foot of Broadway. There was some discussion about this in the last panel. That is a place where we have a chance to say something special about who we are, how we envision ourselves and the value that we place on beauty and art, and I think it could be a tremendous wow, and not just from the city but from the water because we are a water-oriented city.

ST JOHN: So like, for example, there’s a pier with a big – not a warehouse. It has a little more character than a warehouse but it’s essentially a pier where people go through security. What kind of thing might you imagine down there from the arts point of view?

MALMUTH: Well, I think it should be right at the foot of Broadway at that gateway. That building, whether it stays or goes, is never going to be an icon for the city. But at that foot, what we can do is create a gateway that’s very tall, that’s about our connection to the environment, to the water, to the wind, to the air, that’s interactive, that’s something that’s ever-changing and becomes a symbol for how we, as a city, have managed to integrate art and science and technology, and do it in a memorable way.

ST JOHN: Now, of course, you always got to – I hate to introduce money here but you’ve always got to think about the economics of this.

MALMUTH: Yes.

ST JOHN: You’re a developer.

MALMUTH: Yes.

ST JOHN: So you’re coming from this perspective. How would you see this being feasible financially?

MALMUTH: Well, it’s in the Port’s interest to invest in beautiful public spaces. There’s examples all over the country where creating great public spaces and great public art has had a dramatic financial economic impact on the quality of the life and on the economics of the city. Again, looking at Millennium Park or looking at waterfronts all down the coast, whether it’s Portland or Seattle, when the public invests in beautiful public spaces and infrastructure all of the private investment follows and the value of all those lands goes up dramatically. So the Port, which derives 70% of its revenue from leases, would benefit enormously by making significant investment in the public environment because that’s in their economic interest.

ST JOHN: Now, Scott, you have quite a history with public art. Tell us about your involvement in this area.

WHITE: Well, the – As you know, last year the exhibit by Bernard Venet, a very famous French sculptor, was brought to the city. I met with the Port and was able to partner with them and bring, I think, the most significant public art exhibit that the city has ever had. We had 12 monumental sculptures throughout various locations in the city and we had partnerships with the Omni Hotel and many other businesses to support this exhibition. And I – It was a wonderful exhibit. I think it was well embraced. I think that the city finance – benefited financially. We’ve had numerous people from around the world literally send e-mails to the Port and the city saying that they’re surprised to see the exhibit, they came here for the exhibit, what have you. So as David said, the financial benefits to public art is significant and it’s always been that way. I mean, look at some of our greatest cities around the world, how they have benefited from tourism if they elevate to a level that is of international interest and integrity. And I think that is going to be the key because we can’t continue on with Shamu sculptures throughout San Diego. That’s not going to draw the attention of a great, sophisticated audience and tourist base. So we are a tourist-based city. So…

ST JOHN: Have you noticed a difference at all in the political response to these ideas that you have? I mean, are you getting people who are cluing in to what you’re saying and saying, yes, it could be financially beneficial for the city. Or are you meeting resistance?

WHITE: I think resistance mostly. I think that that has been the par for the course here in the city of San Diego. I’ve had a gallery here since 1990 and always trying to bring international shows and do things for the city and it’s always been met with resistance. You know, very little support. And I think that is really the primary issue here in San Diego, is not the lack of money, not the lack of cultural integrity or resources or the clientele to support it, it is the actual support itself.

ST JOHN: Umm-hmm. Would you say that this conference that’s happening this weekend is significant in sort of the evolution of San Diego as a cultural city?

MALMUTH: Absolutely. The dialogue that we’re having now, the dialogue we’ll have on Saturday that addresses the opportunity for arts and culture to be transformative, that’s exactly the discussion that San Diego wants to have right now. And the fact that it’s embedded in a major contemporary art fair, I think, is a great platform. There’s more excitement and discussion about the arts and the potential for the arts than I’ve seen in 15 years that I’ve lived here or the 50 years that I’ve been visiting San Diego.

ST JOHN: Now, Alan, you’ve done a lot of work for years on the Naval Training Center. You’ve had your share of the resistance, would you say. How have you experienced it?

ZITER: Well, I wouldn’t say I’ve had so much resistance. It’s the fact that it is a huge project. There are 26 buildings that were set aside by the city of San Diego for arts and culture uses, and this came about in 1997 when the master plan started to be developed. And at the time, the arts had been – had a very good relationship, and we still do, with the mayor and city council at the time. We had been at the table of civic discourse. We had supported city initiatives like Prop MM, which was a school bond. We had supported the city – the mayor on Prop C for the ballpark. So there were arts votes and arts leadership behind those initiatives. When we came to the table and we said we needed something, we – they were – and at that time it was space, we got what we needed.

ST JOHN: Aha.

ZITER: And so when the 500 acres of the Naval Training Center were divided into a new neighborhood of education and homes and such, arts and culture was given a good portion of that. The city has followed through with significant investment. They’ve already put in $12 million worth of redevelopment money into the renovation of this $100 million project and it’s also been—I think this is a good example for the future—it’s also been a really good partnership not only with the city’s redevelopment agency but with the developer, and in this case it was the Corky McMillin Companies, which between the company and the family have invested three and a half million dollars towards the project as well. So the nonprofit foundation, the city’s redevelopment agency, the developer working together to get that project underway, and I think we’ve found some success so far with the seven buildings we’ve renovated, seven more to – eight more to come next year, and already 42 artists or arts organizations and civic groups in this new, as you said, arts neighborhood in Liberty Station.

ST JOHN: Now some people have visited the former Naval Training Center and they know what’s brewing there, as it were, but perhaps you can sort of paint a picture for us of what’s happening.

ZITER: Well, in a nutshell, remember this was the forbidden city. There were gates, there were guards. Most San Diegans had never been on the Navy base and when the Navy base closed in ’97, it opened up the gates in an opportunity to see what really is a big, blank canvas of opportunity for a number of different things. There’s a 46 acre city park there on the waterfront. There are 8 art galleries already in place around the campus, dozens of restaurants. I go all over town and I hear people saying how much they really enjoy going over to Liberty Station. They had no idea it was there. Plus – I’m sorry, one last thing. 52 historic buildings all in the beautiful Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, so it’s one of the largest historic districts in San Diego as well.

ST JOHN: So, Scott, just going back to you and your experience with this idea of San Diego having an identity as a city that really is a cultural city, where have you experienced blocks? Because it seems like you feel like that we’ve got a ways to go.

WHITE: Well, I do feel we have a ways to go and, as Alan was saying, I think Liberty Station is a great example of a success and they even participated in the Bernard Venet exhibit. They had a wonderful location that we used. You know, I travel the world and I see cultural cities and I go to major cities and events and I think that when you’ve come back to San Diego and see the lack of an identity culturally, that’s the disappointment. And I think that there are – For years, there has been, you know, talk of changes and board changes but nothing has really taken hold. I really haven’t seen a great percentage of elevated awareness for the arts in this city, you know, since I’ve been here and it’s close to 30 years. You know, we see the theatre, we see other things occurring, but as far as the real physical art, three dimensional art, sculpture, identity like a major city, like Chicago or Seattle or New York or Miami, we don’t have it. We just don’t have it.

ST JOHN: Okay, well you mentioned Miami, which is a perfect segue because we have, on the phone with us, David Lombardi of Lombardi Properties from Miami. David, thank you so much for being with us.

DAVID LOMBARDI (President, Lombardi Properties, Miami): My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

ST JOHN: And so you seem to have had some success in Miami with creating an arts district there. Tell us about that.

LOMBARDI: Yes, I’m based in an area called the Wynwood Arts District. I’ve been working at it for 10 years now. And much like it sounded, your description of San Diego, we, too, are at the infancy of a cultural awakening in Miami. And we’ve been renovating an old neighborhood that was historically a manufacturing area and we’ve been adaptive reusing the buildings as funky, innovative, creative spaces for artists and creative uses.

ST JOHN: So now what were some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

LOMBARDI: Oh, well, you know, I come from Miami Beach, which is just over the bay and I had lived there since I was 7 years old, and by the time I was 34 I had never been to this neighborhood, which is only 7 minutes away from Miami Beach because it was mainly an industrial manufacturing area. So it was quite a challenge convincing others of my vision for the neighborhood starting back in 2000 and 2001. I spent an awful lot of time giving people tours of my first project and trying to convince them of the same vision for the area.

ST JOHN: So it took some years, really, to sort of build up the momentum.

LOMBARDI: Without question. It takes many years. And I think had we not gotten lucky enough to have Art Basel do a second fair during the year, which started in 2002, in December of 2002, it would be that much harder still.

ST JOHN: So Art Basel, why was that key to your success?

LOMBARDI: Art Basel is the most important contemporary art fair in the world and has a 30 year history of occurring in Basel, Switzerland. But in 2002, they decided to do a second fair in December here in Miami, which brought the largest concentration of international art collectors from all around the world to Miami every December since then. It literally brings a quarter million highbrow collectors, curators, museum directors from all over the world to our doorstep.

ST JOHN: Well, you’ve got a lot of envious nods in the studio here from our guests here. But, David, just, you know, we may or may not be able to pull in a conference like that immediately but would you say that you – What would you say is a recipe for success in making sustainable arts districts?

LOMBARDI: I think you need a buy-in from several key players from property owners, from city officials, from area residents, a local school or institution of art is very helpful, and the directors of the local museums are key to be at the table.

ST JOHN: Great. Well, David, any last comments. We’d appreciate your experience and your input here.

LOMBARDI: No, I appreciate you having me on…

ST JOHN: Okay.

LOMBARDI: …and I’m excited to attend the San Diego Contemporary Fair this weekend.

ST JOHN: Good. Thanks so much. That’s David Lombardi who was joining us over the phone from Miami where he’s – He’s a developer, too, and he’s created an arts district there, building off the energy of Art Basel. So we – I was going to go you, David, but we have to take a break right now, so – Oh, okay, we don’t have to take a break. Good. So let’s talk to you about the fact that we have this fair happening here in San Diego this very weekend. How do you think that plays into the whole dynamic of attempting to create more powerful artistically inclined communities?

MALMUTH: Well, it’s hugely important and not incidental. I visited Art Basel Miami three years ago, I saw the transformation that had been taking place, that was taking place in the Woodwyn (sic) District, which is stunning. It’s gone from a abandoned warehouse area to this vital, kinetic, exciting arts district and you feel it. You feel the DNA of the city has been altered by what’s happened at Art Basel Miami. And so it’s not too tough to make the connection between the power of that kind of affair, that event, and the way it affects the potential for real estate and Ann Birch told – and Julie Schraeger, who are the two founders of Art San Diego also understand the potential for the fair if it’s done the right way and draws the right people and creates the right energy to be transformative. So I invited David Lombardi to come and make a presentation so that he can give us some inspiration. He can talk about how pairing this wonderful event with the right kind of civic leadership, which he discussed, has the opportunity to make a huge impact in places like East Village and Barrio Logan, which are already on a great course to developing their art credentials.

ST JOHN: Umm, you mentioned Barrio Logan. Talk about that.

MALMUTH: Yeah, but Barrio, I mean, it’s happening. There’s some great stuff. And it’s really ground-up, which is what you sort of want. You want artists saying, hey, this is a cool space, we want to do something with it. In lots of cases, it doesn’t start with the property owners, it starts with people who say there’s a bigger opportunity in this space than what it’s been used for heretofore. So Matt Devine, for example, has taken over a glasshouse and has done a brilliant job of creating a artist’s space that allows for his work and he has some other artists in there. He does exhibitions. And that’s going to be on display on Saturday night. The Barrio Logan folks have all banded together and are going to do a major party celebration on Saturday as a part of the kickoff of Arts Month.

ST JOHN: Okay, 888-895-5727 is the number to call if you’d like to join our conversation. We’re speaking with David Malmuth, developer and president of David Malmuth Development, who’s hosting the Arts in the City Conference this weekend. Alan Ziter, executive director of the NTC Foundation, that’s the Naval Training Center, big buzzing arts community developing down there. And Scott White, who’s somebody who’s got a gallery of his own and is participating in this weekend’s art fair in San Diego. And, Alan, I saw you kind of nodding while we were talking to David Lombardi about the kinds of keys to success. What was it that sparked your interest there?

ZITER: When he said the three words ‘sustainable arts district’ and then he listed off what you needed to make that happen, I was so thrilled to see – I am thrilled to see what’s happening Barrio Logan but I’ve been in San Diego long enough to remember what was happening in the Gaslamp Quarter…

ST JOHN: Umm-hmm.

ZITER: …and that got pushed out and that started happening in East Village and then got pushed out. And now it’s happening in Barrio Logan and how – and when the Union-Tribune did an article last weekend, one of the things that a lot of people were lamenting was we hope this can last awhile. We hope it can sustain this because if you build a football stadium down there, the first thing that’s going to happen is the arts will probably start getting pushed out of Barrio Logan. One of the benefits of the NTC project that was appealing to me was that the NTC Foundation has a 55 year lease with the City of San Diego on those buildings. The arts aren’t the pre-development, they are the reason for the redevelopment, so we’ll be there for the long haul and I hope that’s – that Barrio Logan and the other neighborhoods that are developing like the North Park Kansas thing because I think that’s been one of the problems in San Diego is we’ve tried, we’ve gone in, we’ve colonized, people have done a lot of hard work and then they get pushed out. And it’s because of the – there hasn’t been the leadership from the people at the – that are making the decisions about the land use.

ST JOHN: So that if a neighborhood is revitalized by art there’s got to be something more done to allow the artists to stay in that neighborhood.

WHITE: Well, this is an issue…

ST JOHN: Scott.

WHITE: ...I mean globally, you know, we – you know, going back to the Wynwood District, I participated in Miami Basel from its inception, from the first year, and I’ve been participating in the fair ever since in one way or the other. But like the Wynwood District and like Soho and the Chelsea scenario, and I’ve seen it when I moved my gallery. I first moved to the Gaslamp and opened in 1990 when no one was there. And once you elevate that neighborhood, artists come in and galleries come in, elevate the neighborhood, rents go up, artists are driven out. And you see that’s what happened with Soho, commercial galleries, now it’s – it’s now J. Crew and they had to, you know, gravitate towards a new area, Chelsea. You need to continually define new areas and finding these new areas is becoming more difficult and so the longevity of an area is going to be imperative…

ST JOHN: A challenge.

WHITE: …to the success…

ST JOHN: Umm-hmm.

WHITE: …because you cannot just continue to migrate and seed areas and then let the developers take advantage of it, the financial success that you’ve then developed for them. There has got to be a continuous ongoing location.

ST JOHN: Which is one reason why perhaps the future of NTC, it looks more sustainable in a way because it’s started with that kind of conception and the leaders of the community are – see it in terms of that’s a part of its development, it’s a key part of it.

ZITER: Well, definitely but it can’t come at the expense of other places not being successful either.

ST JOHN: Yeah.

ZITER: We need a lot of arts districts in San Diego.

WHITE: Right.

ST JOHN: Yeah. So, Scott, we saw a comment from Hugh Davies from the San Diego Contemporary Museum of Art over the weekend about how in the San Diego Union-Tribune – about how San Diego is perhaps suffering from being seen as a satellite to LA and other big arts cities.

WHITE: Right.

ST JOHN: Do you see that as being a handicap for us?

WHITE: You know, I really don’t. I see us as like many other cities. There are individuals within these cities and artists within these cities that are going to be dynamic no matter where they are. And it’s up to the city to embrace and support those and encourage those, the growth. So being in the shadow of Los Angeles, that’s to somewhat of a degree but, you know, we have a great base of collectors here and financial wherewithal here, and it should be supported here. I have, you know, I think more collectors in Los Angeles and Orange County than I have in San Diego.

ST JOHN: Umm.

WHITE: I have more collectors I think in Italy and New York than I have in San Diego. So, you see, it’s about the people, and it really doesn’t matter their location. If they’re doing something that’s dynamic and innovative and enlightening and enriching to the community, I think you’ll be recognized anywhere you are.

ST JOHN: So you’re saying it’s about the people and I’m thinking also it’s about the weather. It’s always about the weather here in San Diego.

WHITE: Well, the weather. Look, I’m here because of the weather. So…

ST JOHN: I mean, yes, so San Diego, it’s a double-edge sword though.

WHITE: It’s another issue.

ST JOHN: Because it attracts people but at the same time…

WHITE: Right.

ST JOHN: …has us happy hanging out on the beach and…

WHITE: That’s right. It is a beach mentality and we, you know, we have people here that have moved from New York and Chicago and see these great cities, and they’ve come here because of the weather. We’re about the weather here, so even more so we should have an outdoor artistic exposure because of that situation. We should embrace that. But – so those – But we brought in all these great people from New York and Chicago that moved here because of the weather and retiring here and they brought along with them cultural experiences that they’ve had in their city and they’re expecting it to be here as well. And if we don’t have the support to continue and develop that, they’ll support it elsewhere and continue to do so. So we need to keep the support of San Diegans in San Diego.

ST JOHN: So, David, you know, just going back to that idea that you were talking about to get something going on the Embarcadero, which sort of linked into this whole discussion about how to make this iconic spot in…

MALMUTH: Yes.

ST JOHN: …the city something special. You know, do you – How much do you get – are you feeling you’re getting a buy-in from leaders in the community about the potential for that for the Embarcadero?

MALMUTH: Well, being in the development business, you have to be somewhat patient so while I’ve planted some seeds, we’ll see. We’ll see whether it really catches. I was very encouraged to hear Irene McCormack talking about programming. It was the first time that I’ve heard people who were in a position to actually affect the outcome say, well, it is about design but really it’s more about how do people use the space.

ST JOHN: And she’s a spokeswoman for the Port District.

MALMUTH: For the Port, right, so and I’d had a conversation with her a week and a half ago during one of these outreach sessions saying let’s really focus on how we’re going to use this space. We’re going to talk more about it on Saturday. Marco Li Mandri, who runs the Little Italy bid, is going to be one of the speakers. He’s going to talk specifically about how do you put a management structure in place that ensures that it’s lively and it’s vital and the parking works and security works and people have lots of reasons to come back and visit because it doesn’t happen by accident. I think the Port now understands it needs to get expertise in order to have brilliant public space because that’s a model that’s being used around the country.

ST JOHN: Are you aware – I think the Port is holding some more public hearings in the next coming months. Do you know, you know, what can you say about those for the public who might want to get involved.

MALMUTH: Well, we don’t know. I was just talking with Don Wood about that, it seems. We don’t know what the dates are exactly or what the topics are going to be. But I applaud the Port doing this kind of a public outreach process. It’s clear to me they understand the only way we’re going to have a great waterfront is if it’s a waterfront that all of us feel invested in. So it can’t be a plan that’s created in a boardroom or, even worse, in a courtroom. It has to be done with lots of public input and engagement. And I feel that that’s starting to happen and, hopefully, our dialogue is going to be something that contributes to that.

ST JOHN: And perhaps the public will be more interested in something that’s engaging their creative dynamics rather than, you know, should we put trees here or…

MALMUTH: Yes.

ST JOHN: …grass there.

MALMUTH: Yes.

ST JOHN: It’s somehow more active, isn’t it, more participatory. Yeah, we have a call on the line from Allison in San Diego. Allison, thanks so much for calling. What is your question or your comment?

ALLISON (Caller, San Diego): I live in San Diego but I’m originally from Austin, Texas, and I was just wondering if your guests have heard of East which is the East Austin Studio tour and it’s just a fantastic walking tour of the East Austin art warehouse district that has, you know, really came from the ground up with artists in the area and their own warehouse spaces. It’s several weeks long, it’s just a fantastic showcase of that whole art district. And the best thing about it is the citizens of East Austin have kept it out of the hands of the developers so it’s theirs, it’s all about them, it’s all about the arts, and it’s just a wonderful experience. I was wondering if they had heard about it or know anything of it.

ST JOHN: Thank you, Allison. We’ve got a few nods here. Any of you can relate to that? Alan?

ZITER: Well, I haven’t heard of it but I remember Art Walk here in San Diego and it used to be in the East Village and you actually got to go into all the various artists’ studios. And, again, we’ve lost that in East Village at this time and, hopefully, maybe now that there’s a lot more – I’m looking at Scott. I don’t know why he’s not on the East Village. But maybe it can come – maybe something like that can be brought back to San Diego. I’ll check it up on the web. I’ll look at it and see. We do something every first Friday…

ST JOHN: Oh, yeah.

ZITER: …at NTC. In fact, we’re doing it tomorrow night. It’s called Friday Night Liberty because remember when sailors used to go on the town and it was called liberty?

ST JOHN: Oh, yes.

ZITER: So come over to NTC and from five to eight all of our studios and galleries are open free to the public and there’s a lot of live music and other things going on.

ST JOHN: Oh, that’s sounds great, yeah.

ZITER: So we’re trying it here.

ST JOHN: A lot of studios and galleries, be a little more specific.

ZITER: Well, we have 8 galleries and we’ve got…

ST JOHN: With art?

ZITER: Yeah, art galleries.

ST JOHN: Umm-hmm.

ZITER: And photography and sculpture and otherwise. The restaurants are all opened. And there’s live music going on and also you can see the rehearsals and dance place and also – and the karate academy and Capoeira Brasil. There’s a lot of live demonstrations going on every first Friday of the month, five to eight, at NTC.

ST JOHN: At NTC. It’s sort of a little bit alternative to Balboa Park in the kind of conglomeration of things you can do in one place there.

ZITER: Correct.

ST JOHN: You’re building that up in NTC, yeah. So, now, David, I just wanted to go to you, and Allison was talking about keeping it out of the hands of the developers. Now, you are a developer.

MALMUTH: I am. I’m one that doesn’t think that developers or development is a dirty word. It’s all about trying to find the right balance. In order to make places work, they have to have economic vitality and I’ve – as my career’s progressed, I’ve become much more sensitive to the need to try to maintain as much of the existing fabric as possible. For example, when I go into East Village right now, I see enormous potential to reuse existing buildings in creative ways. I was in Barcelona a couple of months ago and that’s a city that’s done a magnificent job of blending the old with the new. And one of the risks that I think we need to overcome, to address, is the notion that it’s better if you get more density. You know, there’s a mindset right now downtown that unless you can get to a minimum amount of density, you can’t build anything. I think we need to turn that around and ask, well, let’s take a long 50-year view and ask maybe there’s a way that we can keep as much of the existing fabric as possible. Where there’s open space, where there’s the potential for some density, that’s fine, but we shouldn’t demand that that density happen right away because what that will do was will prevent anything from happening.

ST JOHN: Umm-hmm.

MALMUTH: The other thing that I think is critically important right now is that there’s investment in public environment. Again, looking at East Village, there’s going to be a park right in the center of that district. How that park is designed and how it’s programmed is going to have a huge impact on how the surrounding land values are increased and how the quality of that environment feels on a long term basis.

ST JOHN: So you have a slightly different focus from a lot of developers.

MALMUTH: Yeah, indeed. Indeed. And I think it’s the right way to look at development and, certainly, in San Diego where we need to have sensitivity to the existing fabric and make sure that we’re blending the old and the new, I think it’s the right way to approach development.

ST JOHN: Good, and in the last couple of minutes we have left, this Art in the City Conference that’s happening this weekend, I mean, is this something that you need to be an artist to really enjoy it?

MALMUTH: Absolutely not.

ST JOHN: What do you want to say?

MALMUTH: No, we want not just the arts community, we want the civic officials and the development community and architects, anybody and everybody that’s interested in the potential for this city to be an arts leader. The dialogue that’s going to happen hopefully leads to very specific ideas that get champions. Things happen because people become passionate about them. And what we want to have as a result of this discussion is people raise their hand and say, I think the idea of doing a fantastic icon at the foot of Broadway’s a brilliant idea. Let’s figure out how we can make that happen.

ST JOHN: Umm, great. Well, you can find out more about the Art in the City: Utilizing Art and Culture conference on our KPBS website on the Culture Lust, Angela Carone’s Culture Lust blog. That’s a good place to go to check that out. And I’d like to thank all of you for being with us. We’ve heard from David Malmuth, president of David Malmuth Development. Thank you, David…

MALMUTH: Thank you.

ST JOHN: …for coming in. And Alan Ziter, executive director of the NTC Foundation.

ZITER: Thanks, Alison.

ST JOHN: Great stuff going on down there. And Scott White, director of Scott White Contemporary Art. Thanks so much for your coming, too.

WHITE: Thank you for having me.

ST JOHN: Stay with us. Coming up right after the break here on These Days, we’ll be giving you some tips about what to do on the weekend.

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