East Village Green construction could begin “late next year with an opening set in November 2018.” Read the San Diego U-T article here.
Project Director Virginia Escalante gives us the inside scoop on this year’s event.
This week, we are excited to be in the midst of yet another big event for arts and education in East Village. Culture, academia and creativity converge once again for the San Diego City College International Book Fair. The book fair will showcase literature, arts and music from both sides of the border, serving as a culture nexus and providing a site for cultural exchange and growth in downtown San Diego. We had the opportunity to get the inside scoop from project director and City College Professor of English, Virginia Escalante, and get a behind the scenes look at this year’s book fair.
A long-time facilitator for cultural interaction and expansion, Virginia has constructed her approach to teaching and working from experiences on both sides of the education system. She attended USCD for her master’s and is currently in the process of completing her doctorate degree in Communications. She describes how the challenges she faced as a grad student have helped to make her a better teacher and to more aptly prepare students for transfer to universities: “Now that I’m familiar with the expectations of the UC system, I am better at developing and deploying pedagogy that builds our students’ critical thinking and academic writing skills so that they succeed when they arrive at that level.” The book fair plays an important function in this pedagogy, exposing both students and residents to the work of national and international authors and artists – in their words, to “provide insights into both local and international cultures and experiences.”
Through it’s diverse and exciting lineup, the weeklong event will certainly accomplish its goal. Our very own Pete Garcia discussed his published novel, From Amigos to Friends, on Monday – a presentation that Virginia predicted to be “especially topical given that he was an unaccompanied minor who came here from Cuba and in light of the recent migration of more than 66,000 children from Central America.” She lists a number of other poignant speakers who have presented or will be presenting throughout the week: “Maceo Montoya, a gifted artist, author, and Chicano Studies professor, City College counselor Ray Wong, the author of I’m not Chinese: The Journey from Resentment to Reverence, Reyna Grande, author of The Distance Between Us, back by popular demand because her memoir resonates with many of our students, Zohreh Ghahremani, whose books speak to the Iranian-American diaspora, Lysley Tenorio, and Ella deCastro Baron, Judy Patacsil, and Morivi Soliven, the latter of whom won the Philippines’ equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize.” The culmination is a resonating message of diversity, multiculturalism, and the power of expression through the written word and the arts.
Virginia has also reached critical acclaim in the literary world. A former journalist for The Los Angeles Times, she is a Pulitzer Prize recipient for her contributions to a series on ‘Southern California’s Latino Community,’ which received the award’s gold medal for meritorious public service in 1984. The journey through academia and literary success eventually lead her to take on a role where she could apply her skills and experiences and create a forum for others to do the same: project manager of the SDCC Book Fair. Virginia explains that she was compelled to volunteer for the position because the fair is such an integral part of the school’s curriculum. It provides students with the opportunity to meet and interact with the authors, “which enriches their understanding and appreciation of the literature. The students are highly motivated and engage more enthusiastically with their readings when they know the authors of their texts are coming to campus. The fair also serves as a resource for faculty who strive to enhance their own as well as their students’ intellectual development. Other members of the community also welcome the opportunity to meet and converse with the authors who often answer questions the readers may have about their books, their writing process, or experiences.”
Students and faculty of City College are not the only attendees at the book fair. The event will draw various members of the community including artists; East Village residents; librarians; teachers and students from other schools; members of various organizations; mothers who bring their children; retirees; and other avid readers. The diverse crowd reflects downtown San Diego’s thriving literary culture, owed in part to the Central Library’s role in promoting literacy and literature in the area. Virginia cites a number of other programs that have helped to foster this culture, including So Say We All, (a non-profit based in East Village that conducts writing workshops, publishes books, and hosts other programs), and the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, which sponsored a panel on the freedom to write for the book fair. Virginia says of the many opportunities and relationships, “I look forward to creating or strengthening more of these types of partnerships or collaborative efforts in our area.”
The creative class has been established as the backbone of the culture in East Village, and will continue to be a crucial element throughout the process of identity building. Virginia says that I.D.E.A. District’s potential role in this could also be beneficial to students: “It’s very impressive, and its emphasis on the “creative class” is quite interesting. I hope that our City College students can somehow become involved or be provided with opportunities to learn about the development of a project of such a huge scope as well as its impact.” Collaboration has proven to be a vital piece to the recent explosion growth in terms of culture, technology, education, and more in the downtown neighborhood, and Virginia has seen City College expanding along with the rest of the city: “Our new Arts and Humanities Building now houses the City College Center for the Literary Arts whose program includes the book fair, Spring Literary Series, our City College Press which publishes books, and our City Works Journal, all part of efforts to support and nurture literature and creative writing by students, faculty, local, regional, and national authors.”
The SDCC Book Fair and other similar events and programs have a powerful potential to engage the entire East Village Community in a collaborative, intellectual dialogue. It’s already happening as we speak, but Virginia explains that there is still plenty of room for the book fair to expand and evolve: “If the book fair grows to its full potential, more members of the creative class could be involved in helping to design a multiplicity of spaces where readings and other events could be held in proximity of each other, maintaining the cohesiveness of the fair. One of the book fair’s traditions has been to include other cultural forms such as music, art, photography, and film, so those possibilities could also be increased, further developing a rich, uplifting environment that supports and nurtures a variety of creative endeavors and increases participation in or access to cultural events.” This is the synergy that is playing a major factor in the development of East Village’s personality.
As this personality grows more distinct, one of the commonly shared goals is accessibility. Virginia lists the resources that make up the city’s “vibrant, multicultural community in music, art, literature, film, and other forms,” which include art spaces, eateries, music venues and more, and expresses the need for affordability – which is precisely why the book fair is a free event. In the future, she hopes to see more affordable cultural events that will serve all segments of the community: “The arts should be accessible to all rather than the sole purview of the affluent.” The forums for cultural events are certainly multiplying here in East Village – for example, RADLab’s Quartyard – public spaces that create a community environment and are sustainable and accessible. Now, it’s just a matter of cultivating them as a neighborhood and helping them to thrive.
By: Julie Riggert
Meet the entrepreneur-architects behind East Village’s exciting new community space.
San Diego’s East Village continues to thrive in an exciting era driven by an influx of innovation, technology and cutting-edge design. As the city cements its status as a hub for startups, entrepreneurs and culture-makers, a defining trend permeates the atmosphere. This trend is the confluence of ideas and identities – more specifically, a hybrid of creative design and entrepreneurial spirit and the synergy that comes with it. The resulting infrastructure developing in the East Village is branded by projects that are unprecedented, aesthetically striking, technologically advanced and economically and environmentally sustainable.
One such project and future hot-spot that we’re looking forward to is Quartyard, which is slated to break ground tomorrow on Wednesday, October 1st on the corner of Park and Market. This project embodies the confluence between artistry and entrepreneurialism, masterminded by the founders of RAD Lab (Research Architecture Development Laboratory). These entrepreneur-architects, all graduates of the NewSchool of Architecture and Design, epitomize a new breed of thinkers who have surpassed the barrier between design and business and united the two under one, integral hybrid model. We were able to chat with co-founders Philip Auchettl, David Loewenstein, and Jason Grauten to get some insight into the Quartyard project and also learn more about the unexpected challenges and their collaboration with I.D.E.A. District.
Before and After: The October 1st groundbreaking will initiate the space’s transformation from a vacant lot into a sustainable outdoor urban park built entirely out of retrofitted shipping containers. This community plaza will house both permanent and daily tenants and will offer rotating food trucks, art and fashion shows, film festivals, education events, local farmers markets, craft beer tasting events, fundraisers, pet-friendly events and more. (Click for more details on the transformation.)
Quartyard started out as a yearlong thesis project for Philip, David, Jason and their fellow founder Adam Jubela at the beginning of their final year of at NewSchool. The architects had worked on projects together in the past, but they saw the upcoming thesis year as an opportunity to take on a design-build project, an idea that they had always wanted to bring to fruition. Together, they came up with the concept of taking over vacant lots of property and implementing temporary architecture on them, creating a functioning space that would also serve as a placeholder for future development. Philip explains that the goal was to make use of these spaces and find something that they could implement “temporarily, economically and quickly.”
When their proposal received the green light from NewSchool, the team began their search for the ideal location. With the help of Civic San Diego and the City Council, they mapped out 35 different properties in a variety of neighborhoods, but it became increasingly clear that East Village was the best choice due to its potential, the growth that was happening there, and its proximity to NewSchool. The final decision was a lot located across the street from NewSchool – inarguably the best and most convenient spot. “In the end, it really fell in our lap,” Jason stated.
Another crucial element to the project was finding an architecture that would support the concept – a structural medium that offered transportability and mobility. Shipping containers were the perfect solution. David explains, “We came up with the idea of using shipping containers, not only because they’re cool, but because their sustainability is at the core of the project, and it makes it so much easier when we want to move to a new location.” When the space’s temporary, 2-3 year lease expires, the team plans to have a new piece of land already selected. All they will need to do is load the containers onto trucks using a crane and drive them to the new spot. The concept utilizes tactical urbanism at its finest, for a model that is mobile, economical and innovative.
The I.D.E.A. District has been able to play an important role in this exciting project by providing storage space for the shipping containers at the IDEA1 lot, just a block away. While the on-site construction of the foundations, utilities and other elements takes place, the containers will be ready around the corner. Jason talks about the innovative business model and describes its significance at the core of the project: “We’re prototyping. We’re not just providing a space for a tenant to come in temporarily; the tenants are actually purchasing their shipping container, so they’re purchasing their business. That’s kind of a new up and coming concept – ‘take your building with you.’” Once it’s time for the project to relocate, tenants can continue on to the next lot or do as they wish with their business.
Speaking of tenants, the team faced a big challenge in deciding which businesses to select and how to select them. The project required tenants who were able to support the market and pay for their containers, but also were community oriented as opposed to large corporate chains. After repeatedly facing the chicken-or-the-egg scenario of investors wanting tenants before they would invest and vice versa, they were able to find businesses that fit the requirements. Jason explains that everyone loved the idea, “It was just a matter of if they could swing the price and they could afford and wanted to take that risk on this new venture. Luckily we found three great tenants that are just the ideal candidate for this opportunity.” Those three permanent tenants will include Best Beverage Catering (Beer Garden), Meshuggah Shack (a coffee shop), and S&M Sausage and Meat. Each brings a unique aspect to the culture of Quartyard and together will foster a community space that has something for everyone. The craft-market feel will be an integral element of the project. Philip says, “We wanted to keep local; we wanted San Diego based companies, but it was definitely very fortunate with the companies we ended up with. It was a bit of a roller coaster trying to find these tenants, especially because this was all very conceptual. We’d been working with the city but we didn’t have anything built at that point, and this is such an experimental project and it says a lot for someone to be able to take that leap of faith as a tenant.”
As the community space takes shape over the next few months, the RAD Lab team looks forward to witnessing the East Village develop its identity through Quartyard and other projects. David explains, “It’s young professionals in live-work, creative design, creative spaces – that’s what we’re hoping for. It’s an audience that appreciates innovative design, too.” They cite I.D.E.A. District, Maker’s Quarter and Moniker Group as major facets all pushing in the same direction; creating the momentum towards that culture design, technology and education through job clusters and activation. They are no strangers to collaboration – RAD Lab and the I.D.E.A. District have combined forces in the past. Four years ago, Jason, Phillip and David were part of David Malmuth’s and Pete Garcia’s first class at NewSchool – one that required students to work on the five incubator locations for IDEA1. Philip says that the experience had a big impact on the Quartyard project: “It was really interesting, working with them and seeing what they were trying to accomplish – it sparked a lot of different ideas when we were trying to nail down our thesis project, especially with East Village, and the whole movement over here.” Jason explains his take on I.D.E.A. District as well: “They’re a cornerstone. What they’re trying to do in the East Village is perfect for our brand and the message that we’re trying to promote. We’re literally on the corner of the district itself, so it’s a nice way to say ‘we’re starting this over here’ and then hopefully it will just keep moving in that direction.”
In order to maintain this momentum and capitalize on the potential of East Village, it really comes down to the execution of initiatives such as Quartyard. These projects depend on the innovative entrepreneurs that are a growing population in the neighborhood; the Creative Class that is represented by groups like RAD Lab. In a sink-or-swim situation, the team was able to successfully take on a huge, multi-faceted project that will certainly become a major player in the culture in East Village. They explain that the education process was immense and that while they encountered an initial ‘can’t be done’ attitude from almost every angle, it was patience and tenacity that eventually paid off. David says, “I think our biggest takeaway was that we had a vision for it, we thought this was really going to work, and there was no reason why we couldn’t do it. We just put our heads together and sat down said, “Let’s just do it, lets just lean. We’ve been able to make it happen so far and it’s fantastic. So if you believe it, and if you work really hard at it, you can make it happen.”
We can’t wait to see what Quartyard, which plans to open in December, will bring to East Village.
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