downtown oakland
Downtown Oakland circa 1910

Posts from — April 2009

This week, downtown

April 24, 2009

Though doom and gloom surround the economy on many fronts, downtown Oakland is only getting more happening. But it’s not all new ventures. A traveler to Downtown Oakland this week sees new businesses, but also transformed businesses, rescued businesses and long-lived businesses.

As I mentioned in an update to last week’s blog, Bakesale Betty has received all necessary permits and is building their new bakery in Uptown, which will hopefully open this summer. Also under construction are two spots in Old Oakland near City Center – a wine bar and a sushi restaurant, both on Clay near 11th St. Though it’s true that Old Oakland’s designer denim boutique closed after two years in business, nearby retailers Verse, Mignonne, and Fiveten Studio are still going strong. Check out Mignonne’s mailing list for their Saturday sales and vintage trunk shows.

One of downtown’s two (or three) completed but empty condo developments opens this evening with a party featuring Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown and wannabe Mayor Don Perata. I’m sure Jean Quan will be there too, though Robert Bobb is probably tied up in Detroit. The Ellington is a 134-unit high-rise near Jack London Square. Meanwhile, Old Oakland’s Dwell, built by now bankrupt AF Evans, has received multiple offers and a new owner is expected to be announced soon. I understand that the Jackson St project with construction defects has been renovated, but if anyone knows what’s going there, please let us know.

The former Maxwell’s Restaurant and Lounge on 13th St is now Maxwell’s Soundstage, thanks to new operator Dwayne Wiggins of Toni Tone Tony and Alicia Keyes fame. He also operated the coffeeshop in the Alice Arts Center until it closed in 2007. Look for respected singers to draw a sophisticated urban crowd, though so far there’s only been one show. Maxwell’s is near another soon to open club in the area southeast of Broadway. Perhaps other districts are starting to eclipse Uptown’s light; a local architect makes an argument for Jack London Square in a design interview.

On Sunday, the Museum of Children’s Art, a wonderful children’s art center in Old Oakland, celebrates its 20th birthday! From noon to five pm on April 26th children and their parents can enjoy refreshments, entertainment, and hands-on arts and crafts including miniature golf! Year-long memberships will be available at an anniversary discount, too. In addition to retailers, nightlife, and urban housing, there are some great resources for kids in the DTO as well. MOChA is at 538 9th St in the Swan’s Market courtyard.

 It’s a week of things to get excited about in the DTO, though the city may screw that all up with an Uptown parking lot right in the middle of Telegraph! Check out ABO for the details, and enjoy your downtown weekend!

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The DTO steps up its game

April 17, 2009

Wednesday night, the Oakland Planning Commission passed an updated zoning law for downtown Oakland, after more than a year of discussion and debate. The new law aims to spur more development and business success in the center of the East Bay, while respecting neighborhood character and promoting public transit use. While a few dozen people debated downtown’s future, a block away a few thousand people were experiencing downtown’s present. And it’s pretty cool.

At least six spots are set to open in the coming months: a wine bar near City Center, the reopening of Umi Toshi on Clay in Old Oakland, Mimosa Champagne Bar in the ever-expanding Uptown district, Farley’s East coffeeshop and ERA dance club on Grand near Broadway, and Geisha dance club on 14th St in SOBO (UPDATE: Councilmember Kaplan reports that Bakesale Betty has received permits and is under construction). This bounty of entertainment retail is shared with other neighborhoods as well, but downtown is beginning to take its place as the rightful star of Oakland’s show.

Jack London Square, in the midst of an enormous expansion, is turning up the heat this weekend, with a boat show and the announcement of a series of Friday night outdoor dance classes starting on May 1, led by Linden Street Dance Studio. Next week, the Ellington, a high-rise condo building that fell victim to its developer’s bankruptcy, will reopen under new ownership for sales. And speaking of foreclosed but completed condominium complexes, Dwell in Old Oakland is expected to be sold to a capable real estate firm very soon.

This week, all week, Uptown was thronged with crowds attending multiple concerts at the Fox, the Uptown, and the Paramount, as well as simply enjoying the revitalized neighborhood. I stopped by AVE and Flora with a visiting relative on Tuesday evening, and both were packed with folks that did not look like they were here for Green Day. It is hard to remember that only two years ago the entire district was vacant. Despite all this obvious success, KALW is going to have a radio show discussing whether or not the 10k program was a good thing. Seems like old habits die hard.

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