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San Diego Hot Spot: Redevelopment Transforms North Park

People crossing through an intersection in North Park, San Diego in this unda...

Credit: San Diego History Center Photograph Collection

Above: People crossing through an intersection in North Park, San Diego in this undated photo.

One of San Diego’s oldest commercial districts has officially been revived.

Today, near 30th Street and University Avenue, people will find restaurants serving kale salads and specialty drinks in mason jars in place of nail salons and discount stores.

Angela Landsberg is the executive director of The North Park Business Improvement District and National Main Street Association. She said the business landscape has evolved thanks to careful design.

“That’s the trend. People don’t want to get in their car. They don’t want to drive to Rancho Bernardo, they want to be in the community that they’re enjoying,” Landsberg said. “It’s great food, beer, art and I think one of the things that brings people here is that it’s still a little bit gritty."

Landsberg said since she took the helm in 2011, the BID has helped attract about 200 new businesses.

It’s a major contrast from when W. Patrick Edwards opened Antique Refinishers Inc. in 1969.

“North Park in the 1960s was a vacant commercial district and rents were very cheap. Houses were averaging $25,000 for a cottage and businesses you could rent for $150 a month," Edwards said. "So it was attractive to a low-profit business such as antique repair and I moved in.”

“We lost our commercial businesses. The jewelers, the chocolatiers, the clothing, the shoes, they all went to Mission Valley,” said Edwards.

BID was formed in 1985. Edwards said he wanted to improve upon North Park's good bones including its commerical district, central location and rich history.

Redevelopment really picked up when North Park Main Street was established in 1996. This gave North Park’s revitalization effort a blueprint and a national network of support.

It was also poised to better tap into available resources, such as California’s redevelopment fund. A report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development shows more than $1 billion in property tax revenue was set aside for urban renewal.

By 2012, the courts put an end to the redevelopment funding that helped back more than $148 million dollars of redevelopment to North Park, from 2000-2011.

Landsberg says the key to North Park’s economic sustainability is to not only to attract new businesses but to keep them. The North Park BID has a modest 7 percent vacancy rate.

Photo credit: San Diego History Center Photograph Collection

San Diego's North Park at University Ave. & 30th St. in 1928

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