Residents of Lincoln Park, Valencia Park, Chollas View, North and South Encanto, emerald Hills, Mountains View, Mt. Hope, Oak Park, and Webster are set to break new ground together on the $20.5 million Joe and Vi Jacobs Community Center at the hub of those underserved communities in southeastern San Diego.
Groundbreaking for what will become the centerpiece of Market Creek Plaza and a beautiful new community resource is set for Friday, Nov. 4 at Market Creek Plaza, near the corner of Market Street and Euclid Avenue. In the spirit of partnership established with the community ever the past seven years, the entire community is invited to attend.
The celebration includes local residents and dignitaries, a traditional Samoan kava ceremony (reserved for high occasions and honored guests), multicultural food and entertainment, and placement of cultural and commemorative items in a time capsule for the building’s cornerstone. It is also the return of 90-year-old Vi Jacobs to the driver’s seat of heavy construction equipment, as she breaks the ground driving a track hoe. Vi broke ground in a similar fashion at the 1998 groundbreaking for Market Creek Plaza.
The Joe and Vi Jacobs Community Center is planned as a 76,000-sq. ft., three-story building housing a cultural training kitchen, a state-of-the-art meeting and conference center, accessible community and office space a showplace for public art, a neighborhood gathering place, and the headquarters for the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation (JCNI).
The building site is located between Food 4 Less and Where the World Meets on the Market Creek Plaza site. Market Creek Plaza is the $23.5 million innovative commercial and cultural center planned, designed, built, leased, and now operated by teams of community residents. With creativity, respect for cultural diversity, and passion for their community, resident teams transformed the site of an old dilapidated aerospace factory into a vibrant community hub with 11 national and local businesses (some owned or managed by local residents) and more than 179 new jobs.
Residents are the stakeholders and shareholders in this large-scale, community economic development project designed as a catalyst for broad neighborhood transformation. The Plaza is funded by a unique public-private partnership that brought together public and private, non-profit and for-profit funding partners, including the largest New Markets Tax Credit loan in southern California.
Planning for the Center began in 1999 as a partnership with resident teams and JCNI. As plans moved forward, resident teams suggested naming the new community center for Joe and Vi as a tribute to their commitment to the community, their spirit of entrepreneurship, and their love for arts culture and learning.
“We want to name the building for them so we will no forget them. We can’t forget them,” said Ardelle Matthews, long-time community resident and member of several Market Creek Plaza resident teams. “They’re the impetus for making Market Creek Plaza that bright spot on the corner of Market and Euclid. The Jacobs family came here and put some spark and life into everybody. They asked us what we wanted, invited us to envision it, and challenge us to build it. They’ve make us know we are partners together. I’m so proud of what this community is becoming.”
Joe, Vi, and their three daughters (San Diego’s other philanthropic Jacobs family) are the founders of the JCNI and the Jacob Family Foundation (JFF). Children of Lebanese immigrants, Joe and Vi started a small business that grew into the $5-billion worldwide engineering company, Jacobs Engineering Group. In 1988, Joe and Vi created the family foundation and asked their three daughters to join them. Over time, their work focused on neighborhood strengthening and led them to work with residents in developing Market Creek Plaza.
Joe Jacobs, who passed away last year at the age of 88, shared his passion for entrepreneurship and unwavering belief in community self-determination, resident ownership and asset development. The family is committed to pursuing a pioneering approach to private philanthropy, believing that granting money project-by-project and year-to-year rarely has a lasting impact. They are literally “betting the farm” that this approach will work, by investing in it the foundations’ assets.
“They believe that the key to making profound and enduring community change is by partnering with community stakeholders, encouraging residents to drive and own the change in their neighborhoods,” said Jennifer Vanica, president of both foundations. “The family’s style of philanthropy is based on deep-seated values and beliefs that respect people’s inherit dignity, independence, and ability to solve their own problems. Two os their daughters, Valerie and Meg, and their son-in-law, Norm, live in San Diego and help guide the foundation in their groundbreaking community development work.”
To date, the foundations have provide more than $41 million in technical assistance, training, and program support in San Diego. JFF’s $4.5 million investment in Market Creek Plaza leveraged another $19 million in resources for the community.