Downtown Condo Guys

Mark West (Alternative Strategies)
Development, North Park

North Park’s Renaissance Continues
Mark West of North Park Main Street Explains Why

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

Just when we thought North Park reached its peak in new housing and commercial development, along comes a whole new slate of projects and businesses that promise to further reshape the neighborhood’s landscape in the coming years.

Mark West has his finger on that very pulse. Last year he landed the executive director position of North Park Main Street after his predecessor, Angela Landsberg, left the non-profit organization. West picked up where she left off in supporting a host of existing and incoming small businesses while overseeing clean-up projects and implementing community forums that bring together residents and business owners with local politicians. (That would include San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria taking part on Dec. 7.)

As you will learn from our conversation with West, there are exciting reasons why so many residents and business leaders throughout San Diego have set their sights on North Park.

Downtown Condo Guys: What attracted you to this top position at North Park Main Street?

West: After working in defense contracting for 10-plus years and completing my 25-year naval career, I wanted to do something to fill my soul to help small businesses. So when I saw the executive director position come up, I applied. I had also done a lot of non-profit work in San Diego, and I was an elected council member in Imperial Beach for four years.

In addition, I lived in a craftsman home in North Park from 2001 to 2007. During that time I was always involved in the North Park Planning Committee and the North Park Community Association. I now live in Point Loma.

Downtown Condo Guys: Have you implemented any new programs for North Park since taking the job?

West: Yes. I’m really really proud of starting our business forums, which are quarterly enhanced meetings that allow property and business owners opportunities to speak with elected officials and myself about their challenges and concerns in North Park. We did four forums last year and we’re working on our fifth one now. We’ve had between 20 and 50 people attend these meetings.

We’ve had everyone from Congressman Scott Peters, and Council Member Stephen Whitburn to come and speak with business owners and residents.

Mayor Todd Gloria happens to be our latest elected official who will participate in a coffee chat from 9:30 to 10:30a on Dec. 7 at our office (2948 University Ave., second floor). We request RSVPs ahead of time. We’re currently working on our next coffee chat with Assembly Member Chris Ward for the first quarter of 2024.

Downtown Condo Guys: What new businesses are in the pipeline for North Park?

West: It is expected that $20 to $30 million worth of new businesses such as restaurants, bars, and boutiques are slated to open in North Park during the 2024 calendar year. Some of them are really big, significant names, including world-famous Michelin-star Chef Drew Deckman, who will be opening a restaurant in the former Huxton Manor space.

There are also a lot of housing/development projects in the works, but the city permitting process is taking a really long time.

Downtown Condo Guys: What are some of the most recent small businesses that have popped up?

West: We’re very proud of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams; Pinky’s Cafe; Saigon Coffee; Falafel Heights; The Seventh House restaurant; and Black Plague Brewing, which opened in the same building as the North Park Observatory.

Downtown Condo Guys: What changes, if any, have occurred to the Thursday Farmers Market?

West: The market has seen an explosion in the amount of vendors who routinely participate. It’s because we keep the vendor fees at a reasonable rate, which allows them to give better prices and more affordable options to the patrons. We have also developed a lot of new processes for our under-served communities so that they can shop at the market. That includes allowing EBT cards to be used to make purchases from all of the vendors at market.

Downtown Condo Guys: What are some of the latest projects taking place by the organization’s beautification committee?

West: I’m very proud of the work that our beautification committee has done. Our biggest expansion is that we are painting all of the trash cans in the North Park Main Street business improvement district and putting QR codes on them that link to our app for reporting graffiti, trash and homeless issues—and anything out of the ordinary so that we can take care of it.

Downtown Condo Guys: Are there any new bike lanes planned within North Park?

West: No. However, inside the University Avenue Mobility Project, which is being executed as we talk, there will be a shared-use lane that will have transit and bicycle-friendly options. That will run along University Avenue from the 805 to Florida Street.

Downtown Condo Guys: Do you feel the bike lanes have had a negative impact on small businesses?

West: We don’t take a stance on the bike lanes one way or another. But I have been approached by businesses that want to see more traffic-calming initiatives brought to the North Park community. Additionally, some businesses that were resistant to the bike lanes in the past say they have seen their business increase, and they have asked for bike racks to be placed in front of their businesses.

Downtown Condo Guys: What does North Park have going for it that other San Diego neighborhoods don’t?

West: North Park is blessed with many things starting with our diverse and unique community, which has created a vibrant business community. Secondly, North Park has multiple ways to take advantage of the neighborhood because there are parking lots, and we have the cheapest parking garage smack dab in the middle of the community, at 30th and North Park Way. It’s $1 an hour or $5 a day outside of major events. Or if you want to ride your bike you can obviously do that—and the walkability of North Park allows you to go to restaurants, bars and shops.

And, we were recently awarded a $1.5 million continuous clean mobility option grant to bring three electric vehicles to North Park and City Heights via an app-based platform. They will come by summer of 2024 and offer free hop-on, hop-off rides. Their actual areas of operation are still being determined.

There are also so many new and existing events that will be occurring again in 2024, such as the North Park Music Festival (May 18-19, 2024), and the always-famous Taste of North Park (Oct 5, 2024). Both of those events will be expanding in 2024. And…be on the lookout for the completely new Best of North Park Awards Ceremony to be held in Fall of 2024.

Downtown Condo Guys: How do you envision North Park in five or 10 years from now in terms of demographics, aesthetics and economic growth?

West: North Park is currently seeing the golden age of development, which means in three to five years there will be an explosion of grand openings of businesses in the neighborhood. Some of our city’s best and most successful businesses are relocating or expanding into this community. So I see the future of North Park only getting brighter.