Liberty Public Market: From Navy Mess Hall to Food Hall

From downtown urban areas to suburban shopping malls and strip centers, food halls are continuing to thrive within the communities they serve. Here's a look at the transformation of a former Naval mess hall into a food hall in San Diego.

Food halls have become more than just a trend. In recent years they’ve emerged as a primary anchor and amenity for multifamily, office and mixed-use projects across the country. Defined by Cushman & Wakefield as a permanent market building that features a mix of food-inspired retail, artisanal food vendors, and a mix of restaurants serving authentically prepared foods, there could be 180 food halls operating in the U.S. by the end of 2018 and 300 by the end of 2020.

Anchoring San Diego’s Liberty Station mixed-use development on the site of the former Naval Training Center San Diego, Liberty Public Market is one popular destination meeting this definition. Located a few miles north of Downtown San Diego, the planning for the 361-acre Liberty Station dates back to 1993 when the Navy announced that it would be closing the historic training center. Since officially acquiring the property in 2000, the City of San Diego has successfully worked to repurpose the site as a center for commerce, history and art. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, several adaptive reuse projects have converted its buildings into stores, offices, schools and other uses.

These include the recent $3 million transformation of the training center’s 1920s-era, warehouse-style mess hall into San Diego’s first food hall in 2015. A product of Coronado restauranteur David Spatafore and Liberty Station developer McMillin Companies, Liberty Public Market is the result of a year of planning and research based on the operation of well-established markets and modern upstarts across the country.

Today, the 25,000-square-foot marketplace is home to 30 vendors and a full service restaurant and has become an instant attraction with its focus on fresh, sustainable, locally-sourced goods. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m, Liberty Public Market is well worth a visit for those looking for a bite to eat to others who may be considering bringing a modern food hall to their community.

Next Page: A Look Inside Liberty Public Market