Quartyard: New location and goals for San Diego's prized community space
Very few public spaces like Quartyard exist in San Diego.
With a focus on activating an underutilized lot for a temporary amount of time, the project provides a much-needed community space downtown. Located at 1301 Market Street, the public lot features a small dog park, a stage for live music, a beer garden, food, art and a coffee shop all nestled into an 11,000 square foot area.
It’s an innovative and highly valuable community space for those who live in the East Village, and following a recent transition to its new location, San Diego residents can now once again enjoy Quartyard for its numerous services that it provides.
In a chat with The San Diego Chronicle, Quartyard managing partner Justin Navalle opened up about the latest move, the encompassing philosophy of the project and what lies ahead for its future.
“The ethos of the project is to be a temporary space,” stated Navalle in a recent interview. “That’s basically the core of the vision: To be able to take spaces that aren’t being used that are owned by the city and to activate them temporarily.”
Before reopening earlier this year, Quartyard first existed on a larger plot of land a few blocks over on 11th Avenue and Market Street. Similar to the current design, the project was supposed to be a temporary one in a space that was owned by the city.
That lot was eventually sold last year, making way for the development of a highrise in the place of the community area.
Despite the fact that Quartyard's design wasn’t supposed to be a permanent one, local residents voiced their disappointment with its closing. What followed was a second phase of the temporary project in a new site just a few blocks over.
“We got the word that we were going to close [Quartyard] right before summer started, so that was June of 2017. We had to close our doors, but we really loved working on the project,” said Navalle.
“We wanted to keep the team intact, so we worked through the closing and then the grand re-opening process. 10 months later, now we’re here. The community was overwhelmingly supportive, it was really great that we found a city-owned plot that is 500 feet from the old space.”
Despite the fact that the new spot is smaller than the previous one, Navalle was quick to note the benefits of a more compact block.
“As far as the vibe, honestly, I’m more attracted to the new space because it’s more intimate. The old space was 22,000 square feet, the new one is 11,000 square feet, but we took every single element from Quartyard [One] to Quartyard Two. All the shipping containers, the stage, the eatery, the bar and the dog run.”
“It’s exciting and we’re on the corner,” later added the managing partner. “It’s really cool when you walk in, the apex of the street corner basically faces the middle of the stage. From a music experience and an aesthetic experience, I really like that.”
For those who miss grabbing coffee at the old Quartyard from the now closed Meshuggah Shack, two baristas from the former cafe, Ashley Kaye and Chris Mitchell, have teamed up to bring Seahorse Coffee to Quartyard’s current location.
“Their relationship with our neighbors, and us, is just uncanny. They know everyone and everyone loves to come talk to them in the morning,” mentioned Navalle. “I think it’s a perfect fit for Quartyard, I’m really happy that they decided to jump on board with us and grab a container. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Along with over 20 beers on tap at their bar, and a number of diverse events on their schedule, it’s simple to see why so many have fallen in love with Quartyard.
That said, after looking at the benefits they showcase, there’s also a recognition of the need for more local projects that can continue to provide a venue for not only the community, but the arts.
“It’s not so easy in San Diego because there’s a lot of red tape, there’s a lot of rules, there’s a lot of conservative thinking,” mentioned Navalle when discussing the lack of community and art spaces in San Diego.
“It’s a labor of love for a lot of artists, they’re not motivated by finance, they’re motivated by trying to create the space around them more creative. We need to make it easier for these artists to have a safe space. Safe, not just a DIY space, an actual permitted safe space for them to create. That is one of our driving factors of why we do what we do and it’s what I wake up for in the morning.”
When looking ahead to the future of Quartyard, it’s clear that there is still room for more local awareness as well.
“I’m actually helping teach a class at San Diego State, it’s called ‘Innovation and Events.’ When I first spoke to them at the beginning of the semester, I walked in there assuming people knew what Quartyard was,” stated Navalle.
“When I asked them and started speaking about the project, out of the 30 students sitting there, two people had heard of Quartyard. That right there told me that there’s still a lot of room to grow in San Diego.”
Once more traction and attention grows, there’s also no reason why we can’t see more necessary spaces like Quartyard outside of the San Diego region.
“When that energy and momentum grows outside of our bubble in East Village, I feel like the opportunities of replicating this somewhere else in the city or somewhere else in the country would be a fantastic idea.”
All that said, Navalle and the Quartyard team are still keeping their feet on the ground, for now.
“The idea of moving from one place to another, and making it sustainable and being able to operate the business fiscally, is where we’re currently at. I think that if we can prove that this works, who knows.”
For more information on Quartyard, visit www.quartyardsd.com