By Joan Wojcik
In 2014, three young entrepreneurs forever changed a blighted East Village block into a unique, thriving entertainment center, called Quartyard. It was the brainchild of three architectural students, David Loewenstein, Phillip Auchettl, and Jason Grauten, who named their company Rad Lab.
Quartyard is a pop-up block comprised mainly of inexpensive shipping containers, which can be easily disassembled and relocated to another distressed urban block.
The concept for Quartyard was based on other successful pop-up blocks. Rad Lab combined the concepts of the Box Park, which is an upscale retail pop-up block located in London, along with the food-based smaller pop-up block called Proxy, located in Hays Valley, California.
Once Loewenstein, Auchettl and Grauten created the design for Quartyard, it was submitted as their senior thesis at the NewSchool of Architecture and Design. Their thesis won great recognition from the school and the young entrepreneurs were ready to bring their concept, Quartyard, to reality.
Rad Lab went in search of a vacant, blighted lot in the East Village area of Downtown San Diego. A city-owned block on Park Boulevard and Market Street that gravely needed activating was selected for the future home of Quartyard.
This particular block had been a magnet for criminal activity and was the target of constant complaints from nearby residents. Working with the city, Rad Lab finally negotiated a 28-month temporary lease for the lot. The entrepreneurs raised an initial fund of $60,000 to jumpstart the project.
Quartyard officially opened its doors on March 2015 to a sold-out event. The 23,000-square-foot vacant lot was transformed into an exciting place to mingle with friends and neighbors.
The retrofitted shipping containers were used to house food and drinking establishments and a 5,000-square-foot dog park, the only dog park in East Village, quickly became the most popular area on the site by both dogs and dog lovers.
Food trucks arrive daily with appetizing specialty foods. A 500-square-foot stage was erected for live music performances. As the success of the Quartyard grew, a farmers market was soon included, together with the addition of art galleries and other crafts.
Over the last year and a half, the Quartyard experiment has been very successful but it was always meant to be temporary. In a year the stage will be dismantled, the shipping containers removed, and the activated block will be no more.
The Holland Partners Group is in negotiations with the city to purchase the soon-to be once again vacant lot at the corner of Park Boulevard and Market Street for development of a proposed 34-story mixed-use, high-rise.
And what is in the future for Quartyard?
Though Quartyard will be at its current location for at least another year, Loewenstein spoke about the future from his office, a converted shipping container located at the Quartyard site.
“Rad Lab is looking for a future home for Quartyard,” Loewnstein said. “Several locations are being explored but none have yet to be selected. We are definitely looking in East Village.”
Loewenstein explained that although Rad Lab loves East Village, they are also exploring other areas of San Diego, as well as other cities in California. Potentially, Rad Lab would like to operate more than one Quartyard in San Diego.
“The future is bright,” he said. “And the support of the community was amazing.”
The success of Quartyard validated the thesis submitted over two years ago by three young entrepreneurs. Watch for more news on the new location for Quartyard.
For more info about Quartyard, visit radlabs.com/quartyard.