Why the DTO <3 DeLauers
July 1, 2008
There’s more than a little jubilation around downtown since century-old DeLauer’s Super Newsstand, open twenty-four hours on Broadway between 13th and 14th, will be spared the axe. This might be surprising to many who don’t see the value of a newsstand or the value of an all-night mid-downtown gathering place, which BART patrons often find sketchy. The benefit downtowners see in DeLauer’s is that precisely because it’s a well-lit gathering place, it contributes to a safe environment at night.
13th and Broadway is a major transit hub. DeLauer’s light and street presence provide a needed active space between the BART station, bus stops, and taxi stand: the “eyes on the street.” While the folks who create and inhabit this space are not exactly Jerry Brown’s dream downtowners, there are fewer medical and criminal emergencies at DeLauer’s than at Burger King across 13th, which hosts an ambulance weekly. On balance, DeLauer’s makes a tremendous contribution to downtown safety, and whatever criminal activity it may attract is generally of the victimless sort. With a dark, closed store at night (assuming DeLauer’s space isn’t abandoned, torn down, or subject to years of construction, all of which would be even worse), the center of the DTO would be much more grim.
There’s no fundamental market reason why DeLauer’s Super Newsstand couldn’t continue. Obviously there is no longer a need for many newsstands across the city, and Cody’s recently threw in the towel. But DeLauer’s has a huge potential customer base and can make a lot of revenue on the printed page, even as fewer people make trips to Berkeley to buy books. DeLauer’s has always done a good job catering to the local crowd, with the Economist usually getting prominent placement, and romantic titles like Milk in My Coffee share counter side shelf space with Iceberg Slim and mainstream mystery novels. There really should be somewhere in downtown Oakland to buy soda, sandwiches or cigarettes in the middle of the night. A rough transition from the retiring management team and a heavy debt load, not decreased demand, is the newsstand’s real problem.
I’ve also heard many downtowners express their hopes for construction of the office building at 11th and Broadway, which would fill in a very large hole, an entire block face of empty lot and abandoned building. A UC Berkeley / CalTrans project is currently studying pedestrian traffic at 12th and Broadway, and preliminary results indicate the pedestrian crossings equal car crossings (about 6.9m annual trips). Acknowledging this area’s importance, AC Transit is reportedly planning to help DeLauer’s out with rent in exchange for hosting a transit kiosk. Downtowners ♥ DeLauer’s because people who use Broadway throughout the day understand that a continuous, pedestrian-oriented retail strip improves their experience and their safety. Now if only Rockridgers would figure that out.