downtown oakland
Downtown Oakland circa 1910

Category — planningcommission

Mid-May in the DTO: Hello shuttle, buh-bye Shorenstein

May 14, 2010

Last week saw the first dry First Friday of 2010, though it was pretty chilly after the sun set. Like the rest of Oakland, Downtown shines best when drenched in sun, and it seems the rainy season has finally ended. If you’re working downtown, living downtown, or planning to hang out downtown, here’s what you need to know in mid-May.

Downtown Oakland’s second-largest property owner, Shorenstein Properties, has put its four-million-square-foot office and retail portfolio on the market. The properties include the City Center shops; Oakland’s third-largest and second-tallest building, 1111 Broadway; and an agreement to complete construction of a new high-rise at 11th and Jefferson. Though Shorenstein is a local company and a long-time investor, new energy and ambition could improve the City Center office district.

To link Oakland’s disparate office markets and transit hubs, the City of Oakland has set a date for the launch of its new shuttle serving Broadway. On Monday Jun 21, commuters can catch a free ride from Uptown all the way to Jack London Square every fifteen minutes, from 7am to 7pm. Downtown is geographically quite large for a downtown of a mid-sized city, and it’s just not a nice walk from a Midtown lounge to a Jack London Square restaurant, so many expect the shuttle to help unite different retail  nodes, over time. If the shuttle can secure additional funding, its hours can be lengthened to serve dining, but for now it’s great for commuters and Jack London Square restaurants, which suffered mightily when the City’s last Broadway shuttle ended operation in 2002.

Far from the beaten First Friday track, Jack London District’s Swarm Gallery opens a new exhibit this Second Friday, featuring photography and wood sculpture. The Mercury20 photography gallery is now open at its new location on 25th St near Broadway. Today is the deadline for Alameda County artist to submit work for ProArts Gallery’s juried annual, Bay Area Currents 2010.

The Uptown neighborhood continues to add residents and businesses at a rapid clip. City Homestead reports several new restaurants coming to the district, and recently the Planning Commission gave a new bar permission to operate at 17th and Telegraph. Oakland will spend Redevelopment funds to brighten BART’s lonely alleyway. With artsy lighting joining our rightful sunshine, it’s the season for hanging out in downtown Oaktown.

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What's going down, downtown

May 22, 2009

It’s happening downtown, from waterfront events to new construction, to good decisions and bad decisions from City Hall.

Jack London Square, its first round of new construction almost complete, is set the liven up summer with a series of special events. Thursdays Palm Tree Plaza at the foot of Broadway will show nautically-themed films, with The OakBook hosting a trivia contest. Fridays the Linden Street Studio will teach dance classes (today is the waltz) under the stars, and restaurants are offering prix-fixe dinners. A hanging tile mural is being installed on the new Amtrak parking garage. And more opportunities are arising for the future: east of the square, the former Zazoo’s is for sale. It appears to be a $3.2m tear-down, potentially zoned for up to 120 residences, and no height limit.

It’s not all roses, though, for downtown’s waterfront: The Island reports the Port of Oakland is considering ending ferry service at Jack London Square. I find this very unlikely, since it would entail ending the Alameda Ferry as well, while the Water Emergency Transit Authority is attempting to expand ferry ridership and infrastructure.

On Wednesday the Planning Commission approved plans to renovate the former Sweet Jimmie’s on San Pablo and 17th, on the edge of Uptown near Old Oakland. The operator of SF’s Independent will create a smaller venue, a restaurant, and two clothing boutiques, and gussy up the façade. The building hosted Dave Chappelle’s surprise performance last month. Meanwhile, with no public hearings needed, nearby @17th is set to be the new location of the Bench and Bar.

Less awesome for downtown was the Planning Commission’s decision to grant The Shorenstein Corporation five years to resume construction on 601 12 St, which is now a gigantic hole. The lot is half a block from the partially shrink-wrapped CityWalk site. Old Oakland could endure nine years of construction as result of that decision, mitigated only by $50,000 worth of murals on a fence.

City Hall may be closed today, but there is good policy news as well. As the reader may know, on May 5 pedestrian advocates and downtown residents persuaded the City Council to use a prominent Uptown lot for public art instead of car parking. The approved motion, introduced by Councilmember Ignacio de la Fuente, directed Cultural Arts to incorporate the lot into its Uptown arts budget, but allowed the parking plan to move forward in two weeks if City Administrator Dan Lindheim determined an arts use is infeasible. It’s been two weeks, and Cultural Arts has presented several options to Mr. Lindheim, which have not been declared infeasible. So Uptown will not take a step backwards by reverting a prominent Telegraph Avenue lot, however temporarily, to car parking. Whatever Cultural Arts does with the lot, I’m confident it will enrich the neighborhood, complement the streetscape, and perhaps even give Playa-haters a chance to see large-scale sculpture. Uptown Unveiled debuts in June.

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