Celebrating Two Years of Community and Civic Connections and Collaboration with UC San Diego’s Park & Market


One way universities can boost their community impact is by expanding beyond campus boundaries, enriching the surrounding community educationally, socially, and economically. UC San Diego has done this through a first-of-its-kind mixed-use venue, UC San Diego Park & Market, a multi-tenant building with multiple event, meeting and conference venues, office and retail tenants and arts and culture programs in downtown San Diego.

The unique space, which celebrates its two-year anniversary this month, is located on a full city block in the East Village neighborhood of San Diego and adjacent to the UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley, connecting the jobs center of Torrey Pines Mesa and the university’s La Jolla campus to downtown and the U.S.-Mexico border.

Since opening in 2022, Park & Market—managed by UC San Diego’s Division of Extended Studies—has flourished as a sought-after event and conference venue, and has served a wide and growing client list representing campus departments, large and small corporations, school districts, public agencies, nonprofits, and the military and defense industry.

And that's not all. The Digital Gym Cinema, a 58-seat movie theater, operated by Media Arts Center San Diego, is located at Park & Market, showcasing premier international films, hosting the celebrated San Diego Latino Film Festival, as well as other local cinema festivals, and mentoring aspiring young filmmakers through teen producer camps. Park & Market also has a long list of resident partners such as the Burnham Center for Community Advancement (BCCA), San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., and the County of San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce, which focus on fostering the next generation of entrepreneurs and skilled professionals.

Additional partnerships with CETYS Universidad and the UC San Diego Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies aim to enhance economic and educational opportunities between the two countries. The National Conflict Resolution Center in collaboration with the Center for Civility is dedicated to bridging societal divisions, while the Qualcomm Institute and Design Lab facilitate the integration of global resources and UC San Diego's main campus offerings downtown, leveraging advanced interactive technologies.

For Todd Miller, Director of Asset Management at UC San Diego Extended Studies, Park & Market has already exceeded his expectations.

"The amount of return business has been exceptional,” Miller said. “We are trying to expand our outreach not just to San Diego but to other regions and around the U.S. We have built a very positive reputation as a place you want to come to: in 2023, we had 463 events and over 26,000 people through the door. We’re trying to grow [beyond] that.”

He pointed to Park & Market's vast and unique amenities. Besides an art-house movie theater and the Senses bistro that hosts live jazz on Tuesday nights, the venue boasts 25-foot-high ceilings, a dual-sided video wall, in-house AV/production staff, charging stations, and onsite parking with a trolley stop adjacent to the building.


The 66,750-square-foot, four-story, flexibly designed Park & Market features multiple, customizable spaces. The versatile indoor-outdoor design features an outdoor amphitheater, meeting rooms, gallery spaces, conference rooms, and office space for community partners, ensuring accessibility for a wide range of gatherings and businesses.


Miller recalls some of the most memorable events at Park & Market over the last two years as those that leveraged the binational nature and location of the venue and made use of the customizable features. He notes Opera Neo, a local summer opera festival showcasing young artists; a Mexican Independence Day celebration featuring the Mayor of Tijuana and the Consulate of Mexico giving a toast to 400 people during a cocktail party; an international mayors symposium; and the Helen Edison Lecture Series featuring acclaimed journalist Charles Blow. Additionally, Park & Market serves as the home to the World Design Capital San Diego Tijuana 2024. This year is significant as the organization’s first time in its 16-year history of recognizing a cross-border region.

“Park & Market stands out as a distinctive venue due to its binational nature,” said Miller. “This distinctive feature grants our partners the opportunity to host a diverse range of events, conferences or meetings that transcend borders, seamlessly bringing together individuals and organizations from both sides of the border.”

Besides expanding its clientele, another goal for Park & Market is to create more access and equity for surrounding communities. Located at the edge of the Promise Zone and underserved communities in San Diego, Park & Market connects UC San Diego as well as the venue’s partners and clients with the community-at-large, fostering more robust civic participation. Great examples are the Burnham Center community dialogue series and events such as the unveiling of the first student-operated food truck, “Sunset Bites,” at Park & Market, launched by San Diego Unified School District, in partnership with global software giant Intuit. The new food truck supports the culinary programs at Morse, Hoover, Garfield, Mira Mesa, and San Diego High Schools, with these schools sharing the operation of their own food truck business.

“We want to keep growing the community, civic and corporate partners we work with, as well as advancing arts and culture programs as a positive contributor to the region,” Miller said.


Maureen Helenski, Program Manager at UC San Diego Health, has been equally impressed with Park & Market’s ability to bring the community together.

“Park & Market offers many opportunities, such as filmmaking camps for teens (which my son took) as well as other programs,” she said. “There are also not many conference venues in San Diego that are not attached to a hotel or the convention center so Park & Market is filling a need.”

Helenski has direct experience with hosting events at Park & Market.

“UC San Diego Health hosted a Prostate Cancer Patient Summit to educate patients and their partners about their disease as well as give them a forum to discuss issues related to their disease,” she said. “Lectures were given by leading experts in the field as well as several patients who shared their stories. We featured an NFL hall of famer as our keynote speaker and he talked about his journey with prostate cancer.”

Helenski and her team initially chose Park & Market in 2023 for its central location and unique meeting space.

“We returned in 2024 because we loved the venue and working with the staff,” she said. “The Guggenheim theatre has state-of-the-art staging, lighting and AV capabilities. We were able to live stream the sessions on the jumbo video wall in the forum lobby, which is wonderful for the sponsors to feel a part of the sessions. Park & Market is a fantastic venue and their staff are top notch. They make planning an event easy.”

Scott Tait, Executive Director, National Security Innovation Catalyst at the UC Institute on Global Conflict & Cooperation, couldn’t agree more. As a resident partner at Park & Market, Tait has spearheaded a thriving "5 Eyes" event at the venue. “5 Eyes” is an informal military term used to describe the partnership of the five nations that shared “eyes only” top secret intelligence during WWII (US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand).

“Because Australia, Canada and the UK have permanent trade representatives here in Southern California that focus on defense and dual-use technology, we founded the 5 Eyes Defense Working Group through UC San Diego's National Security Innovation Catalyst,” Tait explained. “For the past three years, we’ve hosted a panel on 5 Eyes cooperation at the AFCEA West convention and also hosted a social event at Park & Market. This year we had more than 250 people, with a great mix of military, diplomatic, academic, business, and investor participation.”

Tait said Park & Market is increasingly becoming a favored venue within the defense and military sector.

“San Diego in general is a growing attractive space for defense and national security due to our incredible tech ecosystem, growing investor ecosystem, robust traditional defense industry, large military concentration, and support for national security initiatives from UC San Diego and San Diego State University,” he said. “Park & Market is very attractive due to its central location, flexible space, great staff, and the ability for all these groups to come together without the hassle of base or facilities clearances required to access government sites.”

Tait said Park & Market also brings the resources of a global research university to the heart of downtown, creating a unique collaboration space where the academic, community, and business partners converge for vibrant exchanges of ideas and cultures, fostering civic and cultural enrichment.

“People talk about the ‘convening power’ of academia. This is the idea that, because academia is largely neutral and pretty widely respected, people from all walks of life can connect through the institution,” he said. “Park & Market gives a physical presence downtown that brings the convening power of the university into the heart of the city.”

For more information on how to book Park & Market for your next event, meeting or conference or see what public programs are happening, visit parkandmarket.ucsd.edu.


Posted: 5/21/2024 7:30:00 AM with 0 comments

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