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San Diego's first public market to open at Liberty Station

$3 million project will house vendors in a permanent space

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While public markets don't always succeed, restauranteur David Spatafore and The Corky McMillin Cos. are banking they will have the right formula for the Liberty Public Market in Point Loma.

The market, expected to be up and running by July of next year, will be developed within a 22,000-square-foot space at Liberty Station in a building adjacent to Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens.

The project, expected to cost about $3 million to complete, will host 30 or more purveyors of everything from produce to seafood, to arts and crafts.

David Spatafore, president of Blue Bridge Hospitality, said while each tenant will have a defined area in the market, the charge to the vendors will be based on a percentage of the sales rather than a flat rent based on space.

"It can be so expensive -- first and last month's rent -- before you even sell a head of lettuce," Spatafore said. "People might not be able to write that check."

Nathan Cadieux, a McMillin vice president and project manager for this portion of Liberty Station, said rather than creating competition for Stone, the space will complement what is already there.

The space at 2816 Historic Decatur Road, which was originally built at the beginning of the 1920s as a mess hall, will feature indoor and outdoor food and goods displays. It will also allow "brick and mortar opportunities for small businesses and locally-owned wholesale distributors." The market is tentatively slated to open in the summer of next year.

Cadieux said McMillin and Spatafore's Blue Bridge Hospitality are fortunate in that the building "has very good bones" that will make renovation much easier than might have been expected for an historic structure.

Spatafore agreed that while new mechanical, electric and plumbing systems will need to be brought to the building, it is starting from a good place. This isn't to say there aren't challenges.

"This is a great historical area, but you can't change the buildings. You have to be able and willing to work within the existing design," Spatafore said.

"The Liberty Public Market is paving the way for an interactive community experience – a local gathering place where San Diego tastes, smells, and quality artisan goods will harmoniously unite under one roof," the team said in a joint press release. "Serving as a one-stop specialty shop as well as a daily farmers market, the concept is reminiscent of similar public markets in other progressive cities, such as: Napa’s Oxbow Public Market, Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market and Vancouver's Granville Island. "

Spatafore had one major question after seeing all these signature public markets: "Why couldn't it happen here?"

Cadieux said that "each of the artisan vendors will have a unique family story" that will be reflected in their offerings.

Spatafore said through the restaurants that he has run, he knows there are food purveyors who will offer foods that people simply aren't used to eating.

"The artisans will offer things like incredible cheeses and salumi (Italian cold cuts made from pork)," Spatafore said.

"The venue aims to represent San Diego’s unique culture by offering year-round fresh produce sourced from surrounding regional farms, locally procured seafood, old fashioned butcher services, homemade tortillas, artisanal breads and pastries, fine wine merchants in the Southern California area, locally roasted coffee, a craft cocktail partner, specialty handcrafted goods and more. In addition to purchasing fresh goods to take home, the market will also offer quick-service counters, allowing guests to enjoy food on-site," a press release adds.

Spatafore has made a name for himself developing such Coronado restaurants as Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge, MooTime Creamery, Village Pizzeria, Little Piggy’s Bar-B-Q, Coronado Coffee Co. as well as the forthcoming Stake Chophouse + Bar, opening next month on Orange Avenue.

“As Liberty Station continues to grow and thrive we are thrilled to introduce the same type of community market concept that has proven to be successful in world-class cities across the U.S.,” Scott McMillin, chairman of McMillin Realty, said in a statement. “David Spatafore of Blue Bridge Hospitality is a proven operator and we think under his direction, this concept is a perfect addition to a destination that is already rich with local culture and history.”

"This project allows the little guys to be a part of a very big business opportunity. Not only that, but it offers some of the area’s premier local wholesale distributors the chance to have a brick-and-mortar presence, as well as access to the every day consumer. It’s a win-win scenario," Spatafore added.

The project is being designed by Fitch Architecture of Scottsdale, Ariz. A general contractor has yet to be named but potential candidates are currently being vetted.

As evidenced by the failure of what was intended as a permanent public market in Barrio Logan, the concept doesn't always work.

Spatafore said the problem with the Barrio Logan market was two-fold. One was the location. Spatafore said even though he has a business that is two doors on National Avenue, a negative perception of the area persists. What's more, Spatafore said there were only about 10 vendors and the venue was actually more like a farmers market than a more diverse public market that had been intended.

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