By the time you read this, Quartyard II should be up and running. That’s what they promised. But I’ve been wandering past this replacement location at 13th and Market in East Village for months, chafing at the bit, waiting for them to get their act together and open up. Because, remember Quartyard I, at Park and Market? They turned a dusty construction site into a beer garden, concert venue, eatery, general hangout heaven, all made possible by a village of converted shipping containers, smack in the heart of East Village.
Somehow it hit the sweet spot. For starters, it was a brilliant idea, a way to end-run the usual BS of having to find developers and billions of dollars and years of building and zoning battles, till you’d have rents that only the Guccis of this world and their customers could afford.
But Quartyard II's citizen Svengalis, these students at the NewSchool of Architecture, who wanted to do an architectural thesis project that would actually happen in their lifetime, accepted another limitation that was to prove their – and our – liberation: the idea of temporary. Because that block was waiting for its developer to get his ducks in line. Their thought: while we’re waiting, throw a bunch of containers together, add some astro turf, coffee, grog, sausage eatery, stage for music, camp tables for a beer garden, bean bag games, dog run for those poor cramped condoïsta mutts, and voilà! If you temporarily build it, they will come.
And man oh man, did they come. Suddenly, East Village had a social heart. A place to tell your apartment mates, “See you there at 4,” whatever. And something about the place’s unlimited space and limited shelf life gave it a piquant urgency, an energy you could feel: people knew they had to make the most of it.
When the end came last June, after a two-year run, Quartyard’s student chiefs packed their bags and transferred everything one block away to 13th and Market. When people like me asked how long to opening day, they said “soon.”
The other question was: could you bottle that magic again? Especially since the new area is much smaller. Also, in the interim, three well-financed start-up restaurants nearby, Bottega Americano on Park, Alpha Pizzeria at Market and 14th, and Primo Sports Bar at 13th, have come, and gone.
“Yes, I’m a little frightened,” Justin Navalle the manager of the new Quartyard, told me when I came across him t’other day, as he yanked the chain-link fence closed and padlocked it. “But we have a good following. And again, we’re temporary – we’ve got three years this time.”
For sure, this pop-up thing is a trend. They call it “DIY urbanism,” or “tactical urbanism.” Inspiration comes from everywhere, from San Francisco to Athens. In the depths of Greece’s massive financial crisis, Athens’ city bigwigs threw open empty shopping arcades for anyone who’d bring life back into the city. Free, if also for temporary use. They found it stimulated regrowth downtown. After an earthquake destroyed much of Christchurch, New Zealand’s city center, the movers and shakers – maybe not the best way to describe them - created an entire mall made of actual containers.
The beauty is, if Quartyard’s new quarters are anything like the last, these guys will be creating a social scene out of literally a patch of dirt and a few shipping containers. Let’s hope their new happy hour is as good as the last.
On April 21, the Quartyard will host Jazz on Tap, a charity jazz festival featuring performers from around San Diego, food trucks, craft beer, cocktails, and more, while May 19 features a Backyard BBQ with local chefs, bagged PBRs, and craft beer.