downtown oakland
Downtown Oakland circa 1910

Category — lakemerritt

Friday the 13th isn’t bad luck, downtown

May 13, 2011

It’s Friday the 13th but the DTO, if anything, is lucky. Though the Swig Company’s bid for a high-rise Lawrence Berkeley Lab didn’t make the cut, the Oakland Indie Awards tonight remind us of the many growing businesses downtown and throughout the city. Restaurant openings and new potential in a key DTO district are something to look forward to.

Oakland’s only Michelin-starred chef will open his mod-Thai casual eatery, Hawker Fare, at Webster and 23rd in Uptown next week.

Xolo Taqueria opened next-door to Flora and is enjoying a great welcome from Uptowners.

Plum is now serving brunch from 10a-2p Saturday and Sunday, with menus based on farmers’ market products.

Downtown’s Art & Soul Festival got a nice mention in the East Bay Express’s summer guide.

East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation, the largest landlord in Old Oakland, has hired retail consultants to revitalize the moribund Swan’s Market. A cafe opened by a Chez Panisse alum is a taste of what is (hopefully) to come.

Also in Old Oakland, the Cock-A-Doodle Cafe is now open for dinner Thursdays through Saturdays, with a Cuban menu, while B Restaurant has restored lunch service.

What makes today lucky for some is that local favorite downtown-based band, horns-driven funksters Damon & The Heathens, are playing at Cafe Van Kleef tonight – as they do every Friday the 13th. What better way to reclaim bad luck then with a musical surprise?

Next week: Where is the DTO, redux

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Where is the DTO 4?

April 22, 2011

Last month I presented a 2008 map of downtown and asked for input on the locations of the districts that constitute downtown. The comments revealed areas of agreement and contest. The map below hopes to illuminate the areas of contention so we can achieve new consensus. The neighborhood lines are removed because they weren’t contested except at the margins.

Map of the DTO

So what are the areas of disagreement?

SOBO / Oaksterdam / Midtown

I don’t like the term Midtown because, as Artemis said, downtown is not big enough to have an Uptown and a Midtown, and the terms also imply that downtown is a separate area from Uptown and Midtown, when in fact they are subdistricts of a larger downtown. Oaksterdam, though present in the popular imagination, is not a clear-cut district – the University is on Broadway between 17th and 15th, and there are several Oaksterdam University-affiliated storefronts on 15th Street, but the area is at best three blocks large and therefore too small to be a downtown district. Personally I think of Oaksterdam as less a place than a state of mind. Nobody likes SOBO, but what other term should be used? By the way, the Downtown Association seems to want to extend City Center across Broadway, via 13th St.

Civic Center / Laney College

Nobody seems to like either of these names. Civic Center is the historic name for the area although grand plans for a County and City hub collapsed after the passage of Prop 13. People often refer to things in this area as “near Laney College,” but Laney College itself seems too specific to be the name of a neighborhood. So what should it be called? Is it just a subset of Chinatown? To me it seems large and distinct enough to be its own district.

West DTO

West DTO is a term that I coined to describe the western edge of downtown that borders West Oakland. Like its neighboring ‘hood, Ghost Town, the West DTO is underpopulated and underdeveloped. However it’s pretty big, and is clearly separated from City Center / Old Oakland by 14th and Clay Streets. Does this area need a name, or should it just wait its turn for investment? Is it perhaps part of Uptown?

Financial District / Lake Merritt Office

Folks didn’t seem to like Lake Merritt Office District, which is more-or-less the official name for the district that’s home to Oakland’s biggest private-sector office buildings. Lake Merritt Financial District, another traditional name for this area, seems pretty dated given that Oakland lost its financial industry (which was indeed headquartered here) quite some time ago.

A part of our discussion not covered here is the creeping border of downtown, with Uptown being used to describe restaurants and bars as far north of 27th Street. If you’re interested in the future of Auto Row, plan to attend the relaunch of the Broadway / Valdez Specific Plan next Thursday, April 28, at the First Presbyterian Church at 2619 Broadway, from 6 to 8. You can learn how the City is planning to transform Auto Row into a retail destination and high-density housing.