There are lots of signs of life at the corner of 11th Avenue and J Street – people walk to and from the new library and duck into nearby coffee shops and restaurants. But the street-level space at 390 11th Ave. is dark and dead – it’s been vacant for the past five years. For most of those years, a vinyl sign that read “SUSHI” hung in front of the empty East Village space – often confusing hungry passersby looking for a place to have dinner.
The sign was actually the last vestige of Sushi Contemporary Performance and Visual Arts, the arts nonprofit that called the property home until it folded in 2011.
A special loan agreement required the owners of the building to rent the space out to an arts group at a reduced rate through 2027. If the owners held up their end of the deal, the loan would be forgiven. But since Sushi went under, the building owners said they haven’t been able to find an arts group to take advantage of the offer.
People who’ve been keeping an eye on the space say that’s because the owners haven’t actually been trying.
The unique deal was originally inked by the Centre City Development Corp., downtown San Diego’s former redevelopment agency. It was aimed at mitigating the negative effects of gentrification by guaranteeing that an arts organization would activate the space with public performances and other cultural events, adding to the artsy character envisioned for East Village.
Alas, the dream of keeping the space as an incubator for the arts is almost officially dead. Last week, the City Council signed off on the building owners’ request to end the loan agreement in exchange for a payout of just over $1 million.
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the public officials involved here have no interest in seeing art venues in our city. Here's a quote from Eli Sanchez from an earlier article about this site, it reveals the backwards thinking of him and others who are failing our communities:
"CCDC planner Eli Sanchez said three groups have expressed interest. The lesson of Sushi may be that whoever inhabits this space in this neighborhood might need to have smoother edges."
What "smoother edges" would you like to see, Eli Sanchez? The smooth edges of ample sports bars in the area that feature female employees in uniforms where their hooters are on display? The "smoother edges" of drunken frat boy types who party downtown then relieve themselves on the sidewalk? You and others had a problem with artistic nude displays at SUSHI but you seem OK with Marti gras downtown where men and women expose their genitals for beads. You should be ashamed of yourself, Eli Sanchez. You and those like you stifle creativity and originality and contribute to the epidemic of bland, chain store, everything's the same neighborhoods.
Strange that at 40 cents a foot they couldn't have broken the space into multiple studios for visual artists at least. I can't think of any cheaper space in San Diego. I used to love Sushi, but I agree that the original intent of the deal should have been honored, or at least they should have tried harder to fill the space. Sometimes its not all dollars and cents.
"It was aimed at mitigating the negative effects of gentrificationguaranteeing that an arts organization would activate the space with public performances and other cultural events, adding to the artsy character envisioned for East Village."
That was an ill-conceived piece of social engineering: you don't create art or artsy neighborhoods by government fiat (CCDC was basically a government agency).
The phrase "negative effects of gentrification" is a strange one considering that before "gentrification" empty buildings with graffiti were the norm in that area. Ironically CCDC's attempt to orchestrate hip created an enduring eyesore. In return for mandating failure at this site, local government nows gets another one million dollars.
It's good to be the King.
Your cynicism is what leads to ruined neighborhoods. Developers have reaped the benefits of all kinds of handouts and special deals from City Hall, what's wrong with arts venues getting a little help from the city? It's not as if our city spends lavishly on the arts, we are talking about one venue here. And for the record, it didn't fail because the idea was bad, it failed because the economic downtrurn and bad timing caused SUSHI to go under and those who agreed to the terms of the use for the space failed to adequately find a new tenant