Southeastern San Diego to replace brownfields area with community's smart growth vision

Community members help plan the Village at Market Creek development. Image courtesy of the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation.
Community members plan the Village at Market Creek development. Image courtesy of the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation.

After extensive planning and dozens of community meetings, the Village at Market Creek in San Diego, CA, is ready to break ground on the next phase of a visionary smart growth project.

For two decades, San Diego has been working to remediate and redevelop the former home of aerospace manufacturer Langley Corp. The company left San Diego in the 1990s, but leaking underground storage tanks and other potentially hazardous materials on the numerous factory sites remained. That meant the 60 acres were not only blighted, but potentially dangerous to redevelop.

The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation knew the site had potential, and over the past several years has worked with Diamond Neighborhood residents to help shape the future of the site. The Center held an extensive series of workshops and input sessions with community members, where participants learned about the difficulties associated with remediation on the sites, and used that knowledge to create a comprehensive vision with housing, retail, office space and more. This process eventually shaped the Brownfields Area Wide Planning Action Plan for the Village at Market Creek, which set the stage for new development to begin.

Work has already begun on the Chollas Creek Enhancement Project, which will restore a trail system that will link housing, office buildings, and retail in one section of the Village. The Jacobs Center is now working with the City to rezone the Village at Market Creek land, and recently submitted applications for three new housing projects on the site.

“The City doesn’t see the issue only as brownfields, they see it in terms of tax revenue,” said Sharon Hudnall, who works on the Jacobs Center’s development staff. “The economics are something you can’t ignore. We have a potentially billion dollar redevelopment.”

The Village at Market Creek was featured in Smart Growth America’s 2012 From Vacancy to Vibrancy report as an example of how crucial stakeholder engagement is to area-wide redevelopment. The Diamond Neighborhoods community went through a similar process with Market Creek Plaza, which transformed a 20-acre brownfield site adjacent to the Village at Market Creek into a innovative commercial and cultural center.

The Village at Market Creek project is funded in part by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Grants, part of the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities. Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Grants have helped dozens of communities transform large or multiple brownfields sites into healthier places to live, thriving downtowns and commercial corridors.

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