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East Village Urban Park Project Clears Fundraising Hurdle

Above: A rendering of the plan for a temporary urban park in the East Village.

Aired 12/24/13 on KPBS News.

A group of recent architecture school graduates now have all the money they need to turn a vacant lot in the East Village into a park.

A group of recent architecture school graduates now have all the money they need to turn a vacant lot in the East Village into a park. But they still has a few hurdles to clear before construction can begin.

The group, called Research Architecture Development Lab, or RAD Lab, wants to convert a vacant lot at Market Street and Park Boulevard into an urban park. It'll have a beer garden, farmers markets, food trucks, a coffee shop and a dog run.

The lot is owned by Civic San Diego, the nonprofit created to replace the city's dissolved redevelopment agency. But Civic San Diego doesn't plan to use the land any time soon.

So the students want to borrow it, leasing the land instead of buying it and setting up a temporary park.

Now Andrew Canter, CEO of local investment firm Canter Companies, has made a big investment in the project.

Canter was unavailable to comment, but told The San Diego Daily Transcript he invested because he liked that the project was reusable and could be replicated easily in other spaces.

Phillip Auchettel, one of the RAD Lab founders, wouldn't say how much Canter invested, but said it's enough to see the project through to completion. The group already raised $60,000 through Kickstarter.com to pay for initial expenses.

Auchettel said they met Canter while at the NewSchool of Architecture and Design, and that their project sparked his interest.

"(Canter Companies) want to make things happen downtown and make an impact, so the concept of what we're doing is right up their ally," he said.

The park, which they're calling "the Quartyard" will use recycled shipping containers as buildings, so they can easily be moved when RAD Lab's lease is up.

"They are re-locatable, so that after the project, we can actually pick them up and go somewhere else," Auchettel said. "So we can get something happening in a new area."

Best Beverage Catering has already signed on to provide the park's beer garden, and Scott Slater, the owner of local restaurant Slater's 50/50, will open a new eatery in the space, Auchettel said. He added that a local coffee shop will likely also sign on soon as a tenant.

But RAD Lab still needs the approval of Civic San Diego's Downtown Community Planning Council and a public hearing before it can break ground. Auchettel hopes that will happen in March, and said he expects construction to go quickly.

He plans for the Quartyard to open its gates in time for summer.

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