Tijuana’s Downtown, El Centro as locals call it, is experiencing a truly interesting moment headed by visionaries in various disciplines. A new scene emerged a few years ago at Dandy Del Sur mainly started by musicians, graphic designers and others in the Nortec movement. This caused a boom in new bars on Calle Sexta started by La Mezcalera. Pasaje Rodríguez and Pasaje Gómez followed with galleries and other cultural happenings as did the world famous Caesar’s Restaurant and Colegio Baja Med. Now comes a new wave with different projects that are contributing to the city’s development.
Escuela Libre de Arquitectura
Tijuana's world renowned architect Jorge Gracía moved his architecture studio to the city's red light district on the corner of Revolución and Coahuila and he is launching his architecture school in the same space this August with twenty students. The location was chosen for various reasons: To generate real life experiences for the students, have it be accessible through public transportation and to encourage the use of the same. This project will surely contribute many positive things to the city.
La Justina Gastro Bar
Recently opened it is already generating a buzz with its hip scene, food and craft brews. The restaurant has excellent decoration designed by local architecture firm Atelier Urbanousing recycled materials including the original neon sign from Café La Especial. The food includes gourmet pizzas and entrees created by San Diego’s well known Chef Chad White who says about Tijuana “For me Tijuana is a culinary playground. There's so much culture, history and inspiration for the arts”. Their original cocktails, including one that is named “Revu”, are to be enjoyed.
TJ In China Project Room
Opening February 21st on Ave. Revolución between 6th and 7th this project curated by Mely Barragan and Daniel Ruanova was originally established in the outskirts of Beijing in 2011. The natural continuation for the project is in Tijuana in its Downtown. Daniel says “we see Downtown as the city’s liver. As artists we see history and the future at once. Tijuana’s modern day art is what used to be the 'curios' of our predecessors". The goal of this project is not commercial. The objective is to generate processes, methods and dialogue.
Index Open Studio
Tijuana’s first co-working space is now a reality born in the minds of Tony Haro and Javier Gracia. The idea behind Index is for it not only to be a physically open space but also an open space for ideas where entrepeneurs can work as part of a creative community that stimulates collaboration. With different membership levels based on the services provided it seeks to become an affordable alternative for local entrepeneurs. Located in a pasaje or alley on Revolución between 8th and 9th streets it has improved its surroundings and because of its success a few short weeks after opening they are already taking over an adjacent space. Joining this project is Jacu Brew Bar with its high quality coffee.
Séptima and Constitución + Revolución and Madero
One of the most important elements in downtowns around the world is good housing which did not exist in Tijuana until a developer decided to remodel a property on the corner of 7th and Constitution including twelve apartments and lofts on the second floor designed by Ramón Guillot. For the first time since the fifties there is demand from the middle and upper classes to live downtown. As a direct result of the success of this project forty two more housing units will be developed and there is already a waiting list of over fifty people. There are also a restaurant and an architectural design firm that are ready to open on the street level of this mixed use building that will also contribute to the transformation of “El Centro”.
Punto Siete Restaurant
One of the co-owners of the successful Caza Club restaurant joined forces with well known local chef Moises Arredondo to take advantage of the burgeoning downtown scene and be part of the “in” development in this part of town. Punto Siete will include a sushi bar along with a fusion style menu created by Chef Moises in the previously mentioned Séptima and Constitución building. Punto Siete will open its doors this month with what will surely be a wonderful and modern dining experience.
The Kitchen Art, Food, Beer and Projects
From the mind of Josue Castro we get The Kitchen, a live-work space in one of the lofts in Séptima y Constitución which brings together photography, craft beer, food, music and more. Some of the events that have recently been held there are a concert by Cristina Crème, a conference on art appreciation and art buying by Agentes del Arte Contemporaneo, various photography workshops and classes that have been supported by the executive director of the San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts Debora Klochko and more. The Kitchen is helping change the perception of downtown Tijuana to a group of people that normally would not venture there.
Tahiti Felix's Tiki Lounge & Tattoo Parlor
Tattoos, tropical drinks and alternative rock in downtown Tijuana. Need I say more? A partnership between Gil Taimana the third generation owner of San Diego's Tahiti Felix's Master Tattoo and Argentine “Chino” Rodriguez they decided to embark on their TJ adventure and experience the unique mixture of cultures that the city offers. It undoubtedly becomes a dangerous place with the combination of Caribbean rums, live rock bands and tattoo artists ready to cater to the whims of patrons who had one (or two or three or fifteen) too many drinks.
These are only some of the many projects that are transforming El Centro into something new and exciting which we are not accustomed to. You can feel the excitement and sense of community coming from everybody that is participating in this movement, a true love of Tijuana and the willingness to leave a mark on the city.
This transformation has not been an overnight thing. It has been building up for over five years in the ideas and creative minds of the people behind these and other projects. The one's mentioned here are hardly the only protagonists in downtown TJ. There are others that were the pioneers like La Mezcalera, La Corriente, Pasaje Gómez, Pasaje Rodríguez, 206 Arte Contemporaneo and more. It is worth mentioning the Plascencia family that has opened Caesar’s, Mama Tequila and Café Praga in El Centro. Tijuana keeps moving forward and its art, culinary scene, culture and entepreneurs will continue to lead the way in this wonderful transformation.
Apart from being in love with Tijuana Genaro spends his free time as a commercial real estate broker for Bustamante Realty Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org