By Frank Sabatini Jr.
Makers Quarter to redefine a section of East Village
Call it gentrification with a rousing objective. Or as the planners of Makers Quarter will say about their budding development project encompassing six blocks of East Village, it’s about “creating a community that inspires entrepreneurs and artists to challenge convention and achieve new heights in innovation.”
The concept for the venture — contained within the boundaries of Broadway to G Street and 14th to 17th streets — taps into what is known as the “maker movement.” It’s a relatively new buzz term that defines small-business owners and craftspeople as modern-day vendors of self-made goods and services, or more precisely, the makers and shakers some economists believe could throw competitive curveballs at big retailers in the coming decades.
The project officially broke ground in early April with Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other city officials attending a ceremonial kickoff for construction of Broadstone Makers Quarter, the first of three residential structures that will stand among new office buildings, restaurants, shops, a potential movie theater and public spaces throughout the quarter.
Located at 16th and Broadway, Broadstone Makers Quarter will feature 265 rental apartments and more than 5,000 square feet of retail space when it opens in mid-2018.
The two other mixed-use residential buildings slated for the area are StreetLights on F Street (between 15th and 16th); and Block A, as it’s now being called, which will go up a few blocks north, on Broadway. They are due for completion in late 2018 and early 2020, respectively, thus bringing the total of residential units to approximately 800.
“StreetLights, in particular, will be very special because it will include a pocket park open to the community, plus a six-story art wall,” said Stacey Pennington of SLP Urban Planning, the urban planner working with Makers Quarter master developer, L2HP.
“It’s important to include art because the community has loved all of the murals at Silo,” Pennington added, referring to the vibrant, outdoor venue within the zone (on 15th Street) that has become home to community events and art installations for the past three years.
Silo, along with SMARTS Farm community garden at F and 15th streets, and Fab Lab, an educational production workshop equipped with digital fabrication machines at 847 14th Street, are among the Quarter’s original “makers.”
All of the blocks pegged for development have been owned for three generations by the Navarra family of Jerome’s Furniture, which absorbed many of the lots for warehouse storage and other uses over the years. But after moving its operations to other San Diego sites, L2HP successfully proposed the maker’s concept to the family, which has since been actively involved in the project’s evolution.
“The family was really meticulous about picking a project that would have a lasting impact on the Downtown community,” said SLP planning consultant Robert Gettinger, who added that Makers Quarter will also result in one million square feet of new office space throughout three sustainable, modernly designed buildings.
The first office structure to be built, named Block D, is scheduled to break ground this summer at the northeast corner of 15th and F streets. It will feature open floor plans, multiple balconies and tenant-operated shading systems. Construction of Block A and Block C office buildings will eventually follow in nearby locations, with the latter rising 28 levels.
Through it all, Gettinger said demolition within the area will be “very minor” since there are “quite a few empty lots.”
In addition, a slice of local history will be incorporated into the plan as the 20,000-square-foot San Diego Coliseum on 14th and E streets is transformed into an “eatertainment” hub that will accommodate restaurants and retailers while connecting to a public, outdoor plaza.
Projected to open in 2017, the structure served as a boxing hall from 1929 to 1979 before it was later acquired by the Navarra family.
“It’s the most important existing building that will be retained,” Pennington said.
The goal for completing all phases of Makers Quarter is “anywhere between 2020 and 2025,” she added.
David Hazan, president of the East Village Association, feels the project will be “a huge boon” to this northeast quadrant of East Village, adding that the area is the last in Downtown San Diego with unused land that can be developed.
“We get updates as the planners go along, and anything they build comes before our design committee for vetting,” he said. “We look at whether there’s a balance of public space and how it ties into future plans for parks and promenades. We’ve been pretty much on the same page.”
The effort of attracting tenants to the residences, offices and retail spaces will be ongoing as the structures are completed over the coming years.
“It will be a place of collective ethos, where tenants emerging from different fields can work and live together,” Gettinger said. “Anyone can be a maker — architects, computer scientists, artists, chefs, etc. This is a concept of testing urban ideas that can shape an area.”
For updated developments on Makers Quarter, visit makersquarter.com.