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Coming attraction: The Quart Yard

Architecture students transforming empty downtown lot into urban utopia

A group of students from the NewSchool of Architecture & Design looking to transform a vacant city lot into temporary working spaces are one step closer to reality, as they have raised enough money to move forward in the process.

The students’ company, called Design TEMPO (Temporary Economic Modular Product Organization), raised $60,000 in October via a 30-day Kickstarter campaign to pay for the application of a conditional-use permit, building fees and landscaping amenities for a dog park and picnic area.

“It was an emotional roller coaster,” said David Loewenstein, chief operating officer of the Design TEMPO. “In the last 10 to 12 hours of the campaign, we needed to raise about a quarter of the money and we got about 75 new backers. It was great to see the support.”

This open space between G and Market Streets on Park Boulevard is a dilapidated parking lot owned by the city. A group of architecture students have a plan to turn the space into an urban park and pop-up marketplace called The Quart Yard.

The group has submitted the conditional-use permit for the project, called The Quart Yard, to by Civic San Diego and is hoping for it to be approved at a community planning meeting in December.

The group has recently finished an acoustical analysis and will be performing a storm water analysis as part of the conditional-use permitting process.

The team is also waiting to hear back from the San Diego City Attorney’s office to get the leasing contract for the land to be finalized and signed.

Design TEMPO -- which includes Philip Auchettl (CEO), Jason Grauten (chief communications officer), Adam Jubela (chief financial officer) and Loewenstein -- wants to lease out half of the city block (28,500 square feet) for two years with an option for a third. This city-owned block is a dilapidated street-level parking lot between G and Market Streets on Park Boulevard in the East Village.

The Quart Yard will be an urban park and gathering place for food trucks, a picnic area and a dog park.

Loewenstein said the way the things are looking right now, the project could start being built in January and completed by the end of March of next year.

The project, titled Quart Yard and formally the Research Architecture Development Laboratory, is a pop-up marketplace that showcases local products and caters to those seeking temporary outdoor activities and entertainment such as food trucks, musicians, retailers and even pets for a dog run.

The plan is to build the pop-up marketplace with large storage and shipping containers on the city-owned block. The containers would need to be converted to meet local building code requirements and seismic regulations. They would be manufactured offsite and then installed at the city lot, across from the NewSchool of Architecture & Design.

The city-owned lot is designated for an affordable housing project, according to Civic San Diego President Jeff Graham.

The Quart Yard team says the city would benefit from its plan, because the city would be earning revenue from the lease and a percentage of the profits from community events held would go toward the financing needed for the planned affordable housing complex.

Auchettl, Grauten, Loewenstein and Michael Poage (who recently took a full-time job with another firm, but still contributes) came up with the idea after a studio course called “Architect as Developer” from NewSchool instructor Jorge Ozomo.

The group received more than 150 single-entity donations and close to 30 donations from large companies, such as Masson & Associates Inc. and Wealth Management Marketing Inc., as part of the Kickstarter campaign.

The majority of the donations did come from San Diego, according to Loewenstein, with some of the money coming from as far away as Australia.

“One of our team members is Australian, so many donations came from that country,” he explained.

As part of the Kickstarter campaign, Loewenstein said the team did have to pay Kickstarter 4 percent to use their online services, and Amazon 3 to 5 percent for the use of payment to donate to Kickstarter.

Loewenstein added that the team also held a fundraiser recently at Basic Pizza, where they were able to display a rendering and models of their plan, and raised an additional $3,000 for the project.

“We wanted to show the public and let them see what we’re doing and answer questions and get feedback,” Loewenstein said. “Most of the feedback we received was very positive, and people liked the fact we were including a dog park since it was wanted and needed in downtown.”

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