Construction Begins On Temporary East Village Park
Just over a year ago, a group of architecture students had an idea to temporarily lease a vacant lot and turn it into a park.
On Wednesday, the students' idea took concrete form with a groundbreaking ceremony for their park at Park and Market streets in San Diego's East Village. The students have since graduated from the NewSchool of Architecture and Design and formed a company called RAD Lab. It works on this and other downtown projects.
Reese Jarrett, the new president of Civic San Diego, said his organization hopes to build housing, retail and commercial space on the site in the future.
"But in the meantime, what happens to the space?" he said. "Well, RAD Lab has answered the question for us by creating this exciting opportunity of open space, public engagement and place making."
David Loewenstein, chief operating officer of RAD Lab, said the temporary park fills a need in downtown.
"In the middle of East Village, you see a lot of high-rises, a lot of residential, not a lot of public parks, or a lot of urban parks specifically," he said. "So our vision and goal was to create something new, something different, something for the community, and something we could all enjoy."
The park, which RAD Lab named Quartyard, will include a dog run, event space and a beer garden. It will be made with reusable materials, including shipping containers, and was designed to be set up quickly, so it should be open by December.
Loewenstein said when he and his student partners began looking for a space to build a park, they were "told no a million times." But they won the support of former Mayor Bob Filner, interim Mayor Todd Gloria and current Mayor Kevin Faulconer. The project raised $60,000 in 30 days on the website Kickstarter and got a major fundraising boost from Andrew Cantor, CEO of the investment firm Cantor Companies.
Gloria said at the groundbreaking ceremony that it was a change for him to break ground on a project that would be completed in just a few months.
"In my line of work, we do a lot of groundbreakings, but normally you come back years later because it takes forever to do something," he said. "This is not the case, this is what makes this unique."
Kris Michell, the CEO of the nonprofit Downtown San Diego Partnership, said she was pleased with the project's level of innovation. Her group has been working to set up other temporary parks throughout downtown.
"In urban neighborhoods, space is at a premium, and we can't let one inch go," Michell said. "That's why at the Downtown Partnership, we say where others see asphalt, we see opportunity."
State Assembly Speaker Toni Atkinsalso attended the ceremony and said she would brag about the project across the state.
"This is an example of a game changer," the San Diego Democrat said. "From concept to design to fundraising, RAD Lab and Quartyard are absolutely changing the game. How we approach blight and infill, how we approach public-private partnerships, how we reuse materials and how we look at urban space."