Garfield Night Market on Penn Ave. to expand Aug. 2

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When Penn Avenue becomes the scene of the East End's monthly Unblurred street event on Aug. 2, a little spur of activity will debut as the Garfield Night Market on North Pacific Avenue.

It is the brainchild of cityLAB, a project started by architect and real estate developer Eve Picker to use the city as a laboratory of neighborhood-focused efforts to spark economic development.

Ms. Picker said many people who drive on Penn Avenue don't have a sense of Garfield, which lies to the north. At the same time, many people in Garfield don't feel a connection to Unblurred, which brings people from all over the city to Penn Avenue the first Friday of every month to visit galleries and other businesses that stay open late.

"Many people who live in Garfield don't feel that event belongs to them," she said. Penn Avenue has been "the great divide" on housing values, economics and education between Garfield and Friendship, its more affluent neighbor to the south, Ms. Picker said.

"We're interested in highlighting the existing creativity in Garfield," said Sara Blumenstein, cityLAB's project manager.

The night market will be set up as 10-by-10-foot tents along each side of the street with lantern lights strung overhead between the rows. Ms. Picker and Ms. Blumenstein studied the design of markets around the world, from London to Indonesia, to come up with a look that would draw people to it.

It will be attached to the first Friday Unblurred event through November and resume next year in the spring.

Two years ago, the Bloomfield-Garfield Corp. hired cityLAB with a grant from four foundations to undertake the "6% Place" project. That began a process based on research that showed a decided tipping point in the vitality of a place if 6 percent of its residents work in creative fields. Using the 2010 U.S. census and through interviews and community workshops, they identified creative workers in Garfield and set out to learn what the neighborhood wanted to see happen.

CityLAB formed a steering committee, took a creative census and has held monthly seminars on such things as business planning for freelancers. CityLAB's research shows that 4 percent of Garfield's residents work in creative fields, up from zero percent in 2000. Ms. Picker said the Garfield Night Market could be a catalyst to encourage more creative people to move there.

So far, 33 vendors are interested, 10 from Garfield. CityLAB has raised more than $25,000 to buy equipment; expedite permits, licenses and other bureaucratic requirements; market the event; and provide free vendor space, lighting and use of a commercial kitchen.

The Night Market is designed to be a kind of business incubator. It will bring in experienced vendors, including food trucks, to be a draw to benefit neighborhood vendors and act as models to the fledgling businesses, Ms. Blumenstein said.

One resident who hopes to launch a business through the Night Market, Abigail Russell, bakes for family and friends "and I keep getting feedback that my stuff is good," she said.

"I'm looking forward to the idea of trying to start a business. It started out as a hobby and has developed into something of a passion."

She and her family have lived in Garfield for 20 years, and after years of mostly positive change, she said, "There's a lot more to be done. We live between six empty lots and the weeds have grown onto the sidewalk. We want our [bare] spots to be paid attention to."

She said she has hope for the cityLAB experiment "because there's a lot of talent in our neighborhood. Why not use our own people?"

Rick Swartz, executive director of the Bloomfield-Garfield Corp., is on the Night Market committee and said it will be an alternative to a storefront that many residents couldn't afford.

"The whole point of the 6% Place project is to move Garfield onto the radar screen as a neighborhood people would actively look at as a place to live," he said.

While some arts-related business owners have been gaining the interest of more youth with special events, he said, in general, Unblurred has been seen as a regional event by most people in the neighborhood as "something not intended for them. They're not going to spend $300 on a piece of art work at one of the galleries."

Ms. Picker said cityLAB is "the engine to help get the Night Market started. We have a manager" who will learn how to expedite future permits, licenses and other requirements, she said. "Then we will disappear and it can run on its own."


Diana Nelson Jones: or 412-263-1626. Read her blog City Walkabout at


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