The lot at the base of the Coronado Bridge in Barrio Logan has been vacant for two decades. Residents of the neighborhood have been waiting that long for the large shopping center that city officials long ago promised would transform their neighborhood.

Next week, after years of delays stemming from political wrangling, conflicting ownership claims and a sluggish real estate market, developers Shea Properties and Chelsea Investment Corp. will finally break ground on the Mercado del Barrio Project.

When it’s completed in the summer of 2012, the development on 6.8 acres will introduce 92 affordable apartments to the low-income, largely Latino community, storefronts for small businesses, and perhaps what neighborhood residents have been most eagerly awaiting: their first supermarket.

Northgate Gonzalez Markets will build a 36,000-square-foot supermarket specializing in Latino products. Its 50,000-square-foot store in the Southcrest neighborhood three miles away draws residents from Barrio Logan and across the county, if they can get there.

But many can’t, making it hard for some low-income residents of Barrio Logan without reliable transportation to get their grocery shopping done. Barrio Logan has long struggled to attract businesses. When it was first conceived more than 20 years ago, the Mercado Project was envisioned as a catalyst for the neighborhood’s economic rebirth. It has continued to struggle in recent years, though it has also begun to see the slow effects of gentrification as development in neighboring downtown’s East Village has spread east.

In a press release Thursday, Mayor Jerry Sanders said the shopping center would also include art, landscaping and plazas that reflect Barrio Logan’s Latino community.

“It’s going to enhance a culturally rich neighborhood, spur small-business creation and create jobs for San Diegans,” he said.

Please contact Adrian Florido directly at or at 619.325.0528 and follow him on Twitter:

Adrian Florido is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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