The Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH) asked residents in 2013 what downtown Santa Cruz was missing — the answer was a space for community. Out of this response, the idea of Abbott Square was born.

With $5 million of support from community donations, the MAH has transformed an empty lot of land into a space for free, daily arts activities and performances for all members of the community to enjoy. The Abbott Square Market, made up of five mini restaurants and two bars, will serve a variety of food and drink options.

About two years ago, the MAH partnered with developer John McEnery IV, known for his work on the San Pedro Square Market in San Jose. Together, the MAH and McEnery brought to life a vision of the Abbott Square Market that reflects the museum’s themes of diversity and creativity.

“The diversity of the cuisine and cultures represented was a huge priority in terms of bringing these new restaurants into the market,” said MAH Communications Catalyst Nick Ibarra.

The Abbott Square Market will be on the first floor of an office building that adjoins the MAH. The restaurants in the market include Milk and Wood, Front and Cooper, All Aboard, Veg on the Edge, Pizzeria la Bufala, Cat.Cloud.Companion and Poke It. MAH avoided corporate chains and fast food establishments, selecting local restaurants and new businesses that celebrate Santa Cruz culture.

Veg on the Edge, a new, local restaurant featured in the market, will serve West African-style vegan cuisine. As well as sharing a piece of West African culture with the Santa Cruz community, co-owner Akindele Bankole hopes to educate customers about health and wellness.

“Our goal is to be able to help people eat healthier and also find natural ways to heal their bodies,” Bankole said.

Bankole explained Veg on the Edge will not only promote healthy eating habits, but also educate customers about other ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle. He hopes that his restaurant will connect community members with holistic healers who study practices like acupuncture and meditation.

Also featured in the market, Cat.Cloud.Companion — a partnership between local businesses Cat & Cloud and Companion Bakeshop — will be serving coffee, espresso, pastries and sandwiches. Co-owner and and baker at Companion Bakeshop Erin Justus believes that the business will fit in perfectly with the square’s busy and family-oriented environment.

“The partnership with Cat & Cloud has been pretty simple and fun. I think our collaboration will be impressive for our customers,” Justus said. “Working with a like-minded business on creating a new space has been exciting.”

Like Veg on the Edge and Cat.Cloud.Companion, each restaurant will bring their own unique flavor and atmosphere to the market.

June 2 will be the preview night for Abbott Square, but because the market’s interior is not complete, the market is not expected to be open by then. Because of the market’s incomplete state, the week of celebratory events that were originally scheduled to follow the preview will be pushed to a later date in the summer.

“People of all ages from across the county can come here,” Ibarra said, “and they are going to find something that they enjoy eating and drinking.”