San Francisco Group Wants to Make Mid-Market a ‘World-Class’ Arts Hub

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Photo of the UNDSCVRD Night Market that SoMa Pilipinas has been putting on downtown for years. Photo via SoMa Pilipinas

In the 21 years I’ve been in San Francisco, Mid-Market – the stretch of Market Street running from 5th Street to Van Ness Avenue – has always been run down. But apparently it’s been like that for a lot longer than my tenure here. Starting in the 1960s, the construction of BART turned Market St. into a massive pit for a decade. The once thriving business and theater district never recovered and the area slid into decades of liquor stores, low-end strip clubs, fast food, and dirty book stores, and blight. That combined with the rise in homelessness over the past few decades mad the area undesirable to most.

When the tech boom of the 2010s happened though, San Francisco – along with real estate developers and tech companies – dumped oodles of money into turning the area around. Which kinda, almost, not-really, worked. All it really did was push the crime and vice that was happening on Market Street off into either the Tenderloin or SoMa, making the well paid tech workers feel a little bit better about being chained to their offices for 8000 hours a week.

Then the Pandemic happened and POOF!, Mid-Market jumped up and said, “I’m back bitches!” and people are trying to figure out how to make things better again, hopefully this time for good.

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A group called The Mid-Market Business Association and Foundation thinks they have a plan called Market Street Arts and I am here for it. Taking inspiration from Downtown Montreal’s Quartier des Spectacles, they want to turn Mid-Market into a world class arts hub.

As Kevin Truong points out in the SF Standard:

The ideas floated by the association to turn the neighborhood into an arts and culture destination resemble San Francisco’s larger strategy for Downtown recovery: matching 15 local arts organizations with vacant storefronts and launching public events like concerts and live mural paintings.

Another Planet Entertainment, the Strand Theater, Counterpulse, Alonzo King Lines Ballet, the Asian Art Museum are among the arts organizations enlisted by the association as partners.

Public events are scheduled to start this week and will consist of entertainment and live music during lunch hours.

Right now The Mid-Market Business Association and Foundation are looking to raise $15 million to make this dream a reality. At the current moment the group says it has twice the amount of public money as it does private and is looking to raise more of both. A planning document outlined the budget over the next two years.

Personally, I’d love to see this happen. Events like the UNDSCVRD Night Market and the Bhangra and Beats Night Market have already begun the process of revitalizing Downtown San Francisco with the arts. Having a substantial investment in the arts like The Mid-Market Business Association and Foundation plan would be enriching to all San Franciscans and visitors. Whereas, if they just tried to turn it into another tech hub or business center, all it would really do is enrich the already wealthy.

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.