It’s a project that many would say, for a city of San Diego’s size and agricultural abundance, is one long overdue.
UDATE: 10:15AM- The San Diego Public Market has surpassed its fundraising goal.
The Barrio Logan neighborhood, just on the south side of Downtown San Diego, has a history similar to Little Italy, just on the north side of downtown. Both communities were severely damaged by the construction of Interstate 5 in the early 1970s. In the case of Barrio Logan, the Interstate construction lead to the creation of Chicano Park as a protest response to the development of the highway and damage done to the community as a result.
Both neighborhoods struggled for many years to recover from the loss of homes and families that resulted from the large scale construction project, and to work around the physical and psychological barrier the highway created. The Little Italy area lost 35% of its total area due to the freeway construction per the Little Italy Association and spent the following three decades trying to recover from this loss of real estate and residents. Starting in the 1990s a revitalization began and today Little Italy is frequently cited as one of the most desirable areas to live in San Diego and continues to draw investment even in a depressed economy. Current developments include the Broadstone Little Italy at Fir Street & Kettner Boulevard, which will have 206 units and is expected to open in December 2013 and many others of similar scope.
Barrio Logan has not risen to the same level of notoriety in San Diego to date, but as with Little Italy has retained a strong character and ties to the community history, in this case Latino / Chicano rather than Italian / Italian-American. Recent investments in Barrio Logan will encourage further development in the area. The Mercado del Barrio project, located at Cesar Chavez Parkway and Newton Avenue, will add a brand new supermarket, Northgate Gonzalez, to the area as well 92 apartments and retail space for shops on the ground level.
Barrio Logan is also ground zero for coffee in San Diego, with local roasteries Cafe Moto, Cafe Virtuoso, and Ryan Bros. Coffee all located in the neighborhood. Although the area is a patchwork of industrial, residential, and commercial properties you can sense that the residential portion of that mix is set to increase.
A new parallel between these two neighborhoods is currently blossoming in the area of agriculture and the San Diego food scene. Both already have established restaurant institutions – Las Cuatro Milpas in Barrio Logan and Filippi’s Pizza Grotto in Little Italy come to mind at the top of the list. However, the recent trend of farm-to-table restaurants, farmers markets, and local sourcing of agricultural goods is more well-established in Little Italy.
This trend is most prominently represented by the Little Italy Mercato, a farmers market held on Date Street every Saturday all year long that has grown since opening in June 2008 to include more than 150 booths featuring everything from avocados to live crabs to olive oil. The Mercato was founded and is ran by Catt White, a San Diego resident with a passion for food and boundless energy. This energy is now focused on the opposite side of downtown from her first food foray in San Diego, in Barrio Logan, for her most ambitious project to date. It’s a project that many would say, for a city of San Diego’s size and agricultural abundance, is one long overdue.
Teaming with local entrepreneur Dale Steele, this newest project is the San Diego Public Market (SDPM). Intended to be a full-time resource for area farmers, chefs, and citizens this space will include room for a farmers market, educational space, and workspace for artists and craftsmen of many stripes, and much more. The SDPM is modelled on public markets in other cities like Pike Place in Seattle and La Boqueria in Barcelona but is sure to have its own San Diego uniqueness.
Dale and Catt have signed a lease on a site of more than 92,000 square feet (over 2 acres) that encompasses the majority of the block bordered by National Avenue on the north-east, Beardsley Street on the south-east, Newton Avenue on the south-west, and Sigsbee Street on the north-west. (Google maps view here.)
The SDPM plans to open at the end of August 2012 and is currently utilizing Kickstarter to crowd-fund the renovation of the property, including the former building used by Frasers Boiler Inc. which will be a covered area with spaces for vendors to set up shop.
If you’d like to help fund this project or just learn more about it check out the Kickstarter page here. Based on Catt’s experience with the Little Italy Mercato (as well as running the Pacific Beach and Noth Park farmers markets) the SDPM is sure to be a winning venture in the heart of Barrio Logan. It will be yet another way that these very different communities have histories that have many parallels. They already have pledges of $88,000+ and need to reach to $92k mark to make this happen.
John P. Anderson
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