Balboa Park Automobile Museum Boosts Fundraising Power Ahead of Big Expansion Plan
Six months from now, the San Diego Auto Museum will go to the area’s most generous benefactors with a great demand: give us millions to almost double the footprint of our second-class facility. That’s a substantial demand for a nonprofit organization with a bad reputation in philanthropic circles.
That’s why the classic fixer-upper is keen to prove that it can leverage over $ 1.3 million in recently donated funds and upgrades. This week, the institution said it received a million-dollar gift from Point Loma resident and arts patron Dorothea Laub, whose main goal is to improve the overall guest experience in this regard. moment.
Laub’s money will be used to replace the air conditioning system, redo the reference library and install a sound system, museum officials said. Laub made the contribution in memory of her late husband, Richard “Dick” Laub, a Navy veteran who would have developed a successful commercial real estate business in Anaheim before retiring and entering sport fishing in San Diego. .
The museum also announced that it had secured $ 330,000 from car enthusiast Ray Brock for other building upgrades, some of which are already on display. The funds, for example, went in part to the installation of an elevator to the second floor so that visitors with reduced mobility could finally go upstairs. In addition, Discount Tire helped cover the cost of the brand new flooring with a donation valued at $ 30,000.
The new and upcoming updates, coupled with the historic restoration of the facade and the freshly installed pedestrian plaza at the front, should make a profoundly better impression on visitors to the park, said Lenny Leszczynski, who runs the non-profit organization for 1 1/2 years.
“I think if you walk in today it looks drastically different from what it was when we closed (due to COVID),” the CEO said. “We tried to make as many improvements to the interior as the Committee of 100 and the City (of San Diego) invested in the exterior of the building.”
Opened in late 1988, the San Diego Automotive Museum sits at the western end of the Palisades region of Balboa Park dating back to 1935, occupying the former California State Building. Before the pandemic, the attraction averaged around 120,000 visitors a year, with locals accounting for 32% of visitors to automotive museums, Leszczynski said. In the fiscal year ending June 2019, the institution reported income, including donations of just under $ 1 million, according to the organization’s Form 990 filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
Until recently, the Automobile Museum was one of Balboa Park’s less attractive destinations, obscured by trees and bordered by the sidewalk. Although exterior improvements made by other groups made the facility more attractive, Leszczynski said it was difficult to get private money to improve the interior.
“It’s no secret that the San Diego Automotive Museum, in the years leading up to COVID, had struggled. … You had four years of turbulent leadership, and with that the museum faced unique struggles, ”he said.
But after more than a year of working to mend fractured donor relationships, Leszczynski believes the museum has turned a corner and is ready to build on its new momentum.
The nonprofit is currently planning a second 17,000 square foot building, as permitted by its lease with the city, which would add more space for exhibits and introduce a rooftop entertainment space. The expansion project, taking into account the deferred maintenance needs of the existing building, is expected to cost up to $ 22 million.
The goal is to end up with a world-class facility that rivals the nation’s elite auto museums, including the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, Leszczynski said.
“(Dorothea Laub) originally wanted to tell us about (our next fundraising campaign), but as she formulated her decision, she chose to invest in the current building,” he said. board, which we show the philanthropic community that if we are given that $ 1 million, if we are given the money, we’re going to do what we said we’re going to do with it.
“That’s really what we’re going to do in the next six months to a year – really bring to life whatever Dorothea wanted for the philanthropic community to trust, in October when they give us money that the (new) construction will be completed.
Leszczynski plans to make a formal donation request in the fall, once building permits have been obtained and investor confidence has been restored.