High-rise May Doom Quartyard

Quartyard, the East Village communal space, may be forced out by a high-rise development

Quartyard, the East Village outdoor music venue/beer garden/market experiment, may be on the way out.

Civic San Diego (which helps to oversee downtown development) has entered into negotiations to sell the city-owned property (a 28,000-square-foot lot at 1102 Market St. that Quartyard currently occupies) to Holland Partners Group. If the sale is completed, Holland will transform the lot into Park & Market -- a 34-story, 427-unit, mixed-use residential development -- and Quartyard will have to either shut down or move.

East Village residents (along with other civic activists) took to Change.org on July 8 to create a petition entitled Save Quartyard and Secure a Permanent Home for the Urban Park, which has picked up steam on social media over the past few days. It had 1,747 supporters at the time this article was written.

Quartyard's grand opening boasted a concert featuring Madi Diaz and Swim Team in March 7, 2015. The "urban park" began in 2013 as a conceptual idea by Philip Auchettl, David Loewenstein and Jason Grauten, who then turned it into their master’s senior thesis for the NewSchool of Architecture + Design. The idea was simple: Transform vacant city land into a thriving communal space that could be assembled quickly, and torn down just as fast, using shipping containers as structural components instead of spending the time, money and effort required to develop an actual building.

The trio (who operate as the Rad Lab) raised $60,000 on Kickstarter to prove residents' interest in the project to the city, and, after gathering investors, partnering with a contractor and receiving approval from the city, Quartyard was effectively born.

Quartyard has a license for 48 live-music events a year and offers rotating daily food trucks, art galleries, farmers/crafts markets, a coffee shop, a dog park, beer garden and an outdoor music stage, which San Diegans have began to flock to over the last year. According to the Change.org petition, "The gathering space serves an average of 9,000 residents and visitors a month" and hosted more than 160 events during the last 15 months.

The premise of the Quartyard has never changed, however: It was meant to be a temporary space on an empty lot.

"Quartyard was built as a placeholder for future development with the intention to activate a vacant, publicly owned lot, then relocate once the city sells," Auchettl told SoundDiego via email.

While the Change.org petition is new, the impending property sale is not. The San Diego Union Tribune reported in July of 2015 that Civic San Diego committees had heard two separate proposals from two different developers, Cisterra Development and Holland Partner Group, for massive downtown projects. Cisterra’s proposal for a lot on Seventh Avenue and Market Street involves the development of a Ritz Carlton hotel and a Whole Foods. Holland’s took aim at the Park Boulevard and Market Street lot.

According to the article, the Civic San Diego committee members "recommended that negotiations get started with the two developers to craft more specific plans for developing what is city-owned land," and went on to state that full Civic San Diego approval would take six months or more. As the Change.org petition points out, the project is still under review and requires further approval from city planning agencies, along with the San Diego City Council. Holland Partners Group delivered a schematic design for public review on Tuesday at a Downtown Community Planning Council Pre-Design Subcommittee hearing.

Regardless of the public support for Quartyard, Auchettl said that if and when the time comes to move, the venue will uphold its end of the deal.

"Quartyard was set up to be a temporary activation that could last one year or 10 years," Auchettl told SoundDiego. "If the city does decide to move forward with the chosen developers, we will respect their decision and move when the timing is right."

When asked if they had any plans to move to another space downtown, Auchettl’s response was optimistic but vague.

"We hope that Quartyard will not only act as an emerging model of how we can activate vacant land, but also have an impact on the future developments and public space downtown."

Dustin Lothspeich books The Merrow; plays in Diamond Lakes and Boy King; and runs the music-equipment-worshipping blog Gear and Loathing in San Diego. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.

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