By Brent E. Beltrán
On October 1, 2012 the latest addition to the renaissance of my much maligned community, Barrio Logan, finally opened up. The 92 unit Estrella del Mercado apartments is a beautiful, affordable housing community built by Chelsea Investment and Shea Properties.
This project has been in the works for over two decades and with the mid-December opening of the Northgate Gonzalez Market will reach the end. The site was initially going to be built by private developer Sam Marasco and the nonprofit MAAC Project (which built the nearby Mercado Apartments in the 1990’s).
But, due to whatever legal, economic and political schemes and squabbles Marasco and city hall were up to, the project fell apart, devastating a community that always ended up with the short end of the stick. Eventually the city of San Diego sued Marasco to get the land back. The city won in court and in 2010 gifted the land to the new developers who moved with lightning quick speed to get the project done.
The Estrella del Mercado apartments sits adjacent to the famous Chicano Park which features the largest outdoor exhibit of murals in the world. It is bound by National Ave, Cesar Chavez Parkway and Newton Ave. It is four stories tall with beautiful views of San Diego Bay, Coronado and the Chicano Park Bridge as well as Petco Park and Downtown San Diego.
This new urban development, close to the Barrio Logan trolley stop, will feature commercial storefronts on the first floor and has three stories of one, two and three bedroom apartments above. Some of the amenities include secure off street parking for residents and commercial patrons, on site laundry on each residential level, a large playground area with picnic tables and two gas grills and a comfortable community room with couches, a wide screen high definition television with Dish Network programming, a refrigerator, restrooms and a computer lab with over a dozen internet connected computers. In addition, a variety of services will be provided free of charge to Estrella’s residents.
Jodie McGovern is the Director of Service for Pacific Southwest, a community development corporation that is in charge of providing services to Estrella del Mercado residents through use of the community room.
She says that “Mercado is one of our 20 plus affordable housing communities in San Diego. My job here is to oversee all of the services for the residents. Typically our basic services are tutoring, ESL, computer, job counseling and recreation. We’re hoping to have those here and build upon residents interests. That may flex a little depending on what’s popular. We are the nonprofit partner of the for profit company who developed this property. It’s a huge opportunity to bring our services somewhere where it really matters.
On the building itself and the residents of Barrio Logan she goes on to state, “I think the building is beautiful. I was really just impressed when I first got here and got to see it. I think it’s really special that the residents in this community get to live here because they deserve it. They deserve something really nice.”
Estrella del Mercado resident Lizbeth Nieto says of the apartments and Barrio Logan, “I love it. [Barrio Logan] is not as worse as I was told. It’s a good community. Especially the people are so welcome. Very peaceful and welcome people.” She continues, “The playground is awesome for my kids. I have a five year old. I now have three bedrooms and two bathrooms. It helps a lot.”
Another resident, José Olarde, is an older gentleman who I had the opportunity to briefly talk to during the opening meeting for the Estrella community room. He lived in Barrio Logan in the past, during a different time when the negative stereotypes of the neighborhood were a reality.
He says, “I like it. New apartments. New everything. Neighbors are good. I lived here in the 1970’s. I came back to my people. Everything is good here. The building is perfect. Nice people.”
Estrella del Mercado is the first of two phases of the development of the entire Mercado del Barrio. The development is anchored by this community’s first large-scale grocery store since the closing of Safeway on Imperial Ave. decades ago.
The opening of Northgate Gonzalez on December 12 will be a huge boost for this community that has yearned for a major grocery store since the 1970’s. Northgate is a Los Angeles based grocer that caters to the Mexican community and will fit in nicely within Barrio Logan. In addition to Northgate there are plans for a restaurant where murals from the old Aztec Brewery may be showcased, a community theater and a public plaza where various events will take place.
In keeping with the Barrio Logan and Chicano Park tradition of community art four murals have gone up on the Estrella del Mercado building including work by San Diego graffiti artists Isaias “Crol” Crow and Daniel “Pose 2” Hopkins, among others. More public artwork will be incorporated into phase 2 of the project. Including a mosaic in the public plaza.
My wife and I have lived in Barrio Logan/Logan Heights for a little over two years and we’ve contributed to this community in various ways for the past 20. Our previous apartment was a cramped, three bedroom, one bath, roach infested eyesore located on Kearney Ave. across from the Interstate 5 freeway. When we saw that Estrella del Mercado was going to open up in 2012 we knew we had to live there.
After jumping through the paperwork hoops that was the application process we were lucky enough to get accepted. Though everything is not perfect we love living in these apartments. We have three bedrooms, two baths, two balconies overlooking Northgate and the public plaza as well as a beautiful view of the Chicano Park Bridge as it crosses over the San Diego Bay.
With close proximity to the Barrio Logan Arts District (The Roots Factory, The Spot, Voz Alta and Chicano Park), the legendary San Diego Mexican eatery, Las Cuatro Milpas, and the soon-to-be opening Northgate Gonzalez Market, among many other amenities my community provides, we are truly livin’ la vida Logan.
Brent E. Beltran is a third generation pocho that lives next door to Chicano Park in San Diego’s Barrio Logan. He’s the former publisher of Calaca Press, is married to his dreaming heart watcher and is the proud father of a baby dinosaur. He’s an MMA watching junkie who likes to get his nerd on by seeing superhero and sci-fi movies/tv shows while he’s not shouting at Republiklans for being blatant assholes and Democratas for being spineless chumps. He can be contacted through his Twitter account @DesdeLaLogan.