The Crescent Park neighborhood resident is organizing an event for Edgewood neighbors on Sept. 13, a 5 to 7:30 p.m. event that she and her children playfully refer to as "Edgewood Eats." With the permission of landowner Sand Hill Property, Hwang has invited a handful of mobile gourmet-food vendors to sell dinner in the parking lot in front of the now-defunct Albertsons store.
The hope: that residents of Crescent Park and Duveneck/St. Francis will come, mix and mingle — and also breathe a little life into the vast expanse of asphalt and half-century-old retail buildings.
"There's this opportunity. There's this vacant lot," Hwang said. "No matter how you feel about (the shopping-center redevelopment), we can all agree something is better than an empty parking lot."
She's invited vendors who specialize in rotisserie chicken and salads, Korean-inspired wraps, modern organic Filipino cuisine, Indian street food and locally made ice cream sandwiches.
The meals will be freshly prepared and priced between $5 and $10, she said.
People can bring their picnic blankets and chairs and hang out — or just pick up dinner and walk back home, she added.
In the quest to help people connect with one another, Hwang is tapping into a growing urban trend — mobile food carts.
Gone are the limited culinary offerings of food trucks of yore. These days, mobile-food purveyors sell everything from creme brulee to curry.
The company Off the Grid hosts an Asian and Latin Street Food market every Friday night at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco.
In Los Angeles, Korean taco trucks have gained enormous popularity, the Los Angeles Times reports.
In downtown Palo Alto, online fashion firm Moxsie invites two street vendors every Friday at lunch for "Moxsie Street Eats," an event open to the public, according to its website.
It's a trend that resonates with Hwang.
"My family loves good food," she said. "And we love trying new good food that may not be represented in Palo Alto currently."
But the September event is primarily about strengthening the neighborhood, she emphasized.
"I want people to start thinking about (Edgewood) as 'our place.'"
Although she's been working on the idea for about two months, Hwang, who has volunteered with the PTA, said she's been interested in community for much longer. In her home, she has the poster "How to Build Community," which offers more than 40 ideas, including "Know your neighbors" and "Sit on your stoop."
She reasons that the event will appeal to all involved: "These vendors — they're trying to get themselves going with wonderful, exciting food. Busy parents need a break from cooking. And how nice for Edgewood to get some buzz going."
Sand Hill Property Project Manager John Tze has been more than supportive, she said: "He's been enthusiastic."
If "Edgewood Eats" is well-received it may continue on a regular basis until construction on the center begins, Hwang said.
No date has been announced for start of construction, but preliminary plans for a new center are scheduled to be considered by the city Planning and Transportation Commission in September.