Mission Impossible: identify a rundown, vacant lot, preferably within the confines of downtown San Diego, and transform it into a vibrant and thriving outdoor urban oasis offering, dining, retail, art galleries, a dog park, live entertainment, a farmers market, rotating food trucks, a craft beer garden and more.
Made Possible: raise $60,000 via Kickstarter and an additional $450,000 through investors, galvanize an impressive level of local interest and support, upcycle, beautify and retrofit a dozen or so shipping containers, and collaborate with local government, developers and businesses to bring Quartyard Urban Pop-Up Park from concept to reality.
As I mentioned in a recent post chronicling San Diego’s East Village Renaissance, this particular urban community is in the midst of a massive revitalization. It just so happens that the New School of Architecture and Design (NSAD) is conveniently located in East Village. Enter four young, visionary NSAD grad students who, in their thesis project, brilliantly developed a strategy for temporarily repurposing an unsightly, blight-filled 30,000 square foot vacant lot adjacent to the school. (It seems the city of San Diego has long-term plans for the lot, hence the temporary status of the project.)
That was 2013. Today, Quartyard Urban Pop-Up Park is preparing to open soon with a two-year lease on the property. Meshuggah Shack is already serving steaming hot cups of “Mothers Little Helper”, “Ian’s Make You Wanna Hula” and “Crackhead Chai” to caffeine fanatics. S&M Sausage & Meat, an innovative proprietor of all things charcuterie, is preparing to move into their new Quartyard home, and other vendors including rotating food trucks, a craft beer garden, retail shops and art galleries are slated to arrive shortly.
In less than two years, in a city that is known far more for conservative rigidity than progressive experimentation, Quartyard went from thesis concept to cutting edge success. In the same two years, those visionary grad students, David Loewenstein, Adam Jubela, Jason Grauten and Philip Auchetti, launched a research, architecture and development laboratory conveniently named RAD Lab. (I’m quite certain we’ll be seeing a lot more of the RAD Lab boys and their transformative urban projects for many years to come.)
Just three blocks east of the Quartyard digs lies Makers Quarter, a five-block stretch of graffiti-ridden urban wasteland anchored by a lone silo. And change is in the air here as well. Weekly events at the “silo” including BYOW (Bring Your Own Work Wednesday), Food Truck Fridays, and Smarts Farm, a collaborative community garden, have already attracted over 10,000 new visitors to the Quarter, which has in the past, been rather notorious for its homeless population. Long term plans include 2.5 million square feet of new development focusing on residential growth, tech and the arts. It really seems as though “the times they are a changin’.”
The ultimate success of Makers Quarter, Quartyard and other progressive urban experiments depends on us — consumers — residents — visitors — locavores — individual visionaries who are proud of our city. By supporting these well-planned transformative projects, we actively participate in converting blighted neighborhoods into thriving collaborative environments while strengthening the economic stability of our local communities. What could possibly be wrong with that?