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Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 20, 2010

Turning asphalt into opportunity

Crescent Park resident organizes Sept. 13 'foodie' event in Edgewood Plaza parking lot

by Jocelyn Dong

When Susie Hwang looks at the nearly vacant Edgewood Plaza shopping center, she envisions a place where neighbors might gather, chat and get to know one another. But she's not waiting until the Embarcadero Road center is redeveloped for that to happen.

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.

Managing Editor Jocelyn Dong can be e-mailed at jdong@paweekly.com.


Like this comment
Posted by Diana
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 23, 2010 at 12:20 pm

This is fantastic!!! Thanks to Susie for organizing such a wonderful event for our community!

Like this comment
Posted by not a neighbor
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 23, 2010 at 12:27 pm

So if you do not live Crescent Park and Duveneck/St. Francis you should not come?

Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 23, 2010 at 5:10 pm

As a local resident and the owner of a Food Truck, I would love to have a contact number (phone or e-mail) for information about this great event.

John 650-208-5555

Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 23, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Block parties are more authentic and organic.

Most people define neighbors as people who live close by, or whose kids go to the same class at school or the same Church.

Apart from that people will congregate because of common interests and sports.

Maybe the idea is to have a block party for people who live by the freeway-- but why not do it block by block where families have some organic connection?

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2010 at 5:57 pm

This sounds wonderful. Perhaps Edgewood Plaza can be used for many parking lot functions, eg, rummage sales, flea markets, craft fairs, etc. This Plaza definitely needs life brought into it.

Like this comment
Posted by Christine
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 24, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Thanks for kicking this off the ground Susie! Our family is looking forward to coming to this event and hoping that someday soon this shopping center will be a place where we can come for some of our other needs.

Like this comment
Posted by Sameer
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 6, 2010 at 9:56 am

This sounds great! Good question earlier - are other PA residents welcome?

Like this comment
Posted by Susie Hwang
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 8, 2010 at 9:52 am

Residents of any neighborhood are welcome to enjoy Edgewood Eats night on Monday Sept 13. Feel free to spread the word !

Like this comment
Posted by Diana
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 13, 2010 at 11:09 pm

Wow! What a fantastic evening of neighbors, food and fun. The Indian food I had tonight was incredible. Please, please, please host this again soon.

Thanks again Susie for organizing a such a wonderful community event.

Like this comment
Posted by Karen Harwell
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2010 at 10:54 pm

Thank you Susie for your inspiring initiative and leadership in offering a place for people to come together - all we need is an opportunity and we will create community. I hope in the upcoming ones, our local musicians will join us! I met friends and neighbors I have not connected with for a long time. It was wonderful fun!

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