26 BIG Ideas
The city's leaders in health, science, politics, food, and culture share their game-changing ideas for San Diego in 2016.
(page 10 of 26)
Let’s develop an arts district downtown.
David Bennett, General Director, San Diego Opera
New Yorkers love their neighborhoods, and East Coast transplant David Bennett is no exception. The new general director of the opera has been studying San Diego since he arrived last summer and has found that while places like the Gaslamp, East Village, and Little Italy seem to have their own identities, our city lacks an arts district. “The institutions are in place, so why not focus on the strength of what we already have?” To wit: You can walk from the Jacobs Music Center to the Lyceum and Balboa theaters, Spreckels, the Civic, and even MCASD. Bennett adds that the closed rock venue 4th and B would make “a perfect black box theater,” if only the right people would step up. “The arts district would have its own energy. Arts should be what gives this zone its sense of identity, and a developer should build on that.” He pictures retail and restaurants in the first floors of the bank buildings, so that people coming to the theater don’t necessarily have to dine in the Gaslamp. “If you exit the Civic after a show, you’re in a plaza, and if you squint your eyes you can almost imagine you’re in an Italian piazza—but then you open your eyes. It wants to be developed.” Bennett also points out that “traffic is an issue in San Diego County... We have to be mindful and reach audiences where they are in addition to where art is being made.” He has his eye on North County performing arts centers, plus outdoor venues and nontraditional performance spaces. (Bennett once produced an opera in a New York planetarium.) Opera: coming to a theater, warehouse—and possibly our very own version of Times Square—near you.