Botanical Building in Balboa Park closing for renovations: what to know

Balboa Park Botanical Building rendering with renovations
A watercolor illustration of the renovated Botanical Building by Al Forester. | Via Forever Balboa Park

The iconic, 106-year-old Botanical Building at Balboa Park is about to undergo a major glow up. This means that in just a few days, it’ll temporarily close.

Here’s what you need to know about the renovations to the building synonymous with San Diego’s cultural crown jewel.

Botanical Building in the heart of Balboa Park
The Botanical Building in the heart of Balboa Park is one of the most photographed spots in San Diego. | Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

When will it close?

The City of San Diego told us the Botanical Building will close to the public beginning on Sat., Jan. 1, 2022. At that point, the lath structure — one of the largest of its kind in the world — and its surroundings will be prepped for construction. This means the daily, free tours of the 2,100+ plant varieties inside the building will stop (for now).

Why is restoration needed?

The Botanical Buildings + Gardens were built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, an event historians credit for putting San Diego on the map. Millions of people walk through the building each year, and because of this, Forever Balboa Park said it’s sustained corrosion, mildew + termite damage, cracks in its plaster walls, faded paint, and other issues.

The Botanical Building in December 2021, before renovations
The Botanical Building in December 2021, before renovations. | Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

When does construction start? What’s included in renovations?

Construction is set to begin in spring 2022, and the project will be completed in phases. Here’s some of what needs to be done — all while adhering to the historic building’s original 1915 design:

  • Repair lath and steel damage, reconstruct arches + entrances.
  • Add a new irrigation system.
  • Electrical + energy-saving lighting upgrades.
  • Add restrooms.
  • Add a new “Welcome Gallery” + information desk in the foyer.
  • Upgrade landscape design, create pergola.
  • Build enhanced infrastructure for educational opportunities + interpretive displays.
A rendering of the renovated Botanical Building
A rendering of the renovated Botanical Building. | Via Forever Balboa Park

What about funding?

The state has allocated $8.26 million for the project and state funding guidelines require the project to be completed by June 30, 2022. Extensions may be granted, if needed. The rest of the money comes from the Balboa Park Conservancy’s fundraising efforts + $300,000 from the city.

City spokesman Tim Graham said the city hopes to complete Phase 1 by spring or summer of 2023. The project timeline + dates will be updated throughout 2022. For now, here’s an in-depth look at the project.

Botanical Building Balboa Park
A rendering of the renovated Botanical Building. | Via Forever Balboa Park