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Catalina Getting Fancy: Museum Overhaul, Spa, 120 New Houses

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[Images of the new museum via Catalina Museum]

Catalina has always had ebbs and flows in its popularity as a tourist destination, but things are looking pretty good lately and now it's trying to ride the recent wave of increased tourism with "half a dozen" new projects in Avalon's approximately two-square-mile area, plus renovations to the existing golf course and beachfront club. The splashiest addition will be a brand-new, $6-million arm of the Catalina Island Museum that will be four times bigger than the existing museum. Future museum visitors will also be able to swing by a new spa/"aquatic center" with three freshwater swimming pools or stay in a planned 100-room hotel, both to be built by Santa Catalina Island Co., (which owns all of the land available for development on the island).

Santa Catalina Island Co. also has plans to build more than 120 houses expected to be in the $1-million range, according to the LA Times, and the Catalina Conservancy (which owns most of the island's undevelopable "wild land" space) plans to tear down the old Catherine Hotel and put up a nature center and gift shop.

Some residents, including a councilmember, are worried about all this building fever, especially the seemingly sudden shift to round-the-clock work "going 500 miles an hour tearing down old structures" to make new ones. They're also generally worried (rightfully, it seems) that the museum, whose most popular exhibits have been about "the Beatles, Marilyn Monroe and the Chicago Cubs," is moving away from showcasing the island's history and just pandering to novelty-seekers.
· Catalina's Avalon is getting an ambitious overhaul [LAT]