May 17, 2016
The first episode of Culturecast, our new podcast that for its first season examines the tensions created by gentrification and the artistic renaissance in Barrio Logan, ended on a cliffhanger.
This week, we pick up where we left off and dig into the challenges local developer Greg Strangman faced after rehabbing a few buildings in Barrio Logan.
Strangman’s firm spruced up two apartment buildings and a few commercial units on Logan Avenue, a street that’s become the center of the artistic renaissance happening in the historically under-served, Latino neighborhood. Soon after the projects were finished, the grumblings from the community began.
Strangman opened the project with a bang in January by inviting two local arts nonprofits to take over the residential buildings for a night with a huge exhibition featuring almost two dozen San Diego artists. CityBeat arts reporter Seth Combs slammed the “Parallel” show. There were fliers and posters advertising the building’s available units hanging throughout the event, and Combs said that made the whole thing feel like a sham.
“‘Parallel’ wasn’t an art event,” Combs wrote. “It was a carefully staged marketing party that happened to include some art.”
Combs said the project itself was a bellwether of the onslaught of gentrification in Barrio Logan.
I sat down with Combs and Strangman to talk about the neighborhood’s transformation and whether there’s a right way to redevelop a neighborhood like Barrio Logan. Strangman defended his event, talked about his passion for art and culture and said he moved his company’s office to Barrio Logan because he genuinely digs the vibe there.
“After sourcing out North Park, South Park, Little Italy, Mission Hills, we kind of settled on Barrio Logan [and decided it] was going to be an ideal home for us because of some of the cultural history and the richness of the people that are here,” he said.
Also on the podcast, a real estate agent who grew up in Barrio Logan offers his take on gentrification, and a business owner who rents one of Strangman’s commercial spaces and has been in business for 16 years talks about the good and bad effects of the change he’s seeing. Strangman also directly addresses criticisms of an art installation – an old scoreboard alongside a controversial quote – that’s on the outside of one of his buildings, and details why he thinks the neighborhood is safe from big, bad development, at least for now.
“I think it’s going to grow really organically,” he said. “I really do. I just don’t see anything coming in here and tearing this place apart – I just don’t see it,” he said. “I could be wrong. … But who knows, maybe a Chargers stadium will come in and change the whole dialogue.”