February 23, 2001

Market Creek Plaza Celebrates Food 4 Less Opening With Community Celebration and Showcase of Local Musical Talent

Some of southeastern San Diego's most promising, new musical talents will take to the stage at Market Creek Plaza to celebrate the opening of the new Food 4 Less grocery store and to preview the city's newest, most accessible entertainment venue —the Plaza's outdoor amphitheater. Market Creek Plaza is hosting a free community event, including food, activities, and musical entertainment on Saturday, Feb. 24, from 2 to 5 p.m., following of the Heritage Day Parade.

Market Creek Plaza is the 20-acre mixed-use, community-based revitalization project in southeastern San Diego near the Market Street and Euclid Avenue hub. Food 4 Less is the anchor tenant of the cultural and commercial center, and the grand opening of the grocery store signals the completion of the first of five construction phases.

"When we interviewed residents to determine what they felt was needed in this community, a full-sized grocery store topped the list," said Jennifer Vanica, executive director of the Jacobs Center for Non-Profit Innovation, the action arm of the Jacobs Family Foundation and developer of Market Creek Plaza.

The $6-million, 58,000-square-foot Food 4 Less opened for businesses on Jan. 31, and store manager Miguel Bonilla reports an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the community.

Since opening, "We've had one of the busiest stores in the Southern California area," said Bonilla, a 13-year veteran with the food retailer who previously managed the Food 4 Less in El Cajon, as well as five other San Diego locations. "We've got the most beautiful store I've ever seen from Los Angeles to San Diego. People are very excited to have a modern grocery store like this in the area."

The architecture of this food 4 Less location was designed in coordination with the Market Creek Plaza Arts & Design team, made up of residents and artists from the community who worked in partnership with architects from Fehlman & La Barre and its senior designer Hector Reyes.

In addition to the grocery store's opening, Market Creek Plaza is also offering a preview of its unique 500-seat amphitheater, which has the stage actually built into Chollas Creek. The amphitheater is scheduled to be completed this summer and offers a one-of-a-kind venue to showcase the rich cultural diversity of the area. It will be accessible for a variety of purposes, including concerts by notable performers, as well as community and school plays, dance groups and more. This venue is expected to be a launching pad for local performers seeking to make a name for themselves in the entertainment industry.

In preparation for the Feb. 24 event, an open talent search invited people from the communities surrounding the site to strut their stuff. Auditions were conducted by a panel of four judges, each with experience in the music industry: Rickey Laster, vocalist and music director for professional vocal groups; Floyd A. Smith, owner of Jazzies and the Back Stage night club; long-time vocalist Robert Turner; and professional promoter Gus Lawler.

"A lot of big talent has come from this part of San Diego," explained Laster. "And there is a lot of talent out there now, but they don't know how to best break into the business. The amphitheater at Market Creek Plaza offers them a built-in audience, so they can get exposure without the pressure of ticket sales."

Lawler agreed, saying, "This is one area that is untapped, because there's no venue like the amphiteatre around. I've been wanting to do a talent search for awhile, and then bring in record companies from across the country."

Added Smith, "We've had our turn, and now it's time to help these kids avoid the pitfalls of the music industry. We want to help look out for their interests."

In addition to being among the first to use the city's newest entertainment venue, musicians selected to perform will be given a free, professional-style photograph for promotional purposes and the chance to showcase their talents before representatives of the music industry and the public.

The Market Creek Plaza event follows the Heritage Day Parade, an annual community-based event held during Black History Month. The parade offers a multicultural platform to bridge relationships among San Diego based-businesses, youth and religious groups, schools and media. The theme for this year's parade is "Operation Rebuild," and Market Creek Partners will serve as the grand marshal of the event. More than 30 people from the organizations and teams that comprise Market Creek Partners will ride in the parade on a float being created by community members.

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