downtown oakland
Downtown Oakland circa 1910

Posts from — October 2008

Uptown excitement

October 24, 2008

The Trib’s Night Owl, Angela Woodall, reveals details and dates of Ozumo‘s venture in the DTO, on the smoking-hot corner of Broadway and Grand. Ozumo and Pican, who signed leases months ago but did not begin work until recently, will share the intersection with Luka’s, the Franklin Square Wine Bar, newly-glam Vo’s, and next year, Bakesale Betty.

The original Uptown investment that sparked the district’s revitalization, The Uptown Apartments, celebrated the first residents and the broader community by opening a new Oakland park last night. The park, built and maintained by Forest City but operating as a city park, will soon be home to Remember Them, a colossal bronze monument a friend called “Mt. Rushmore for liberals.” Check out the park before it’s overwhelmed by “art.”

The Trib also writes about the Fox Theater, which has received tens of millions in donations and is now going to reopen as a fully-restore, full-scale theater, a far cry from “The Ruins” plan developer Phil Tagami floated to get the city interested in its restoration, which promised a usable building on the cheap. The School for the Arts is planning to move in at the end of November, so the building will appear occupied and revitalized at that point.

All the talk about the city’s budget over the last week explains why many neighborhoods are working to provide their own services and not rely on the city. Before the recess, the City Council approved several new Business Improvement Districts, including three downtown, two of these in Uptown (Uptown, which includes the Lake Merritt office district, and Koreatown, which includes part of Uptown and several blocks to the North). The Uptown bid is currently looking to hire security guards for the district. Much of the controversy before Tuesday’s vote focused on cuts to the Cultural Arts and Marketing Department, and the Oakland Convention and Visitor’s Bureau was mostly defunded. Next week, the OCVB will propose a hotel BID (PDF) to fund its activities in the future.

In other downtown news, the Barbary Lane retirement home in the historic Lake Merritt Hotel opened for long-term residents. I’m not sure whether the restaurant overlooking the Lake will be again open to the public.


Restaurants take root throughout downtown

October 22, 2008

Jack London Square, and its eponymous neighborhood, is quickly becoming a culinary destination. Mono and Miss Pearl’s Jam House had already proven the waterfront, once home to TGI Friday’s and The Old Spaghetti Factory, has become a viable place for upscale and edgy cuisine. Renowned (among my foodie friends at least) chef Daniel Patterson, of Coi and the former Elizabeth Daniel, has signed a lease to create a “neighborhood place” called Bracina.

The OakBook recently profiled Meg Ray of Miette, a dainty and TV-ready confectionary in SF’s charming Hayes Valley neighborhood, who will bring her contemporary yet vintage aesthetic to the under-construction Jack London Market building (nee Harvest Hall, which is much catchier). These high-profile tenants certainly confirm the marketing pull of Jack London Square II, an office and culinary complex meant to compete with City Center. But the waterfront and its new buildings is far from the only emerging culinary hotspot in the DTO.

The artist-owners of Soizic at the waterfront end of the Broadway completed Mua, their renovation of the gorgeous Oakland Auto Parts building along the edge of Auto Row, which is fast becoming colonized as an extension of Uptown. Not to be outdone, the owners of Dona Tomas leased a space just up Telegraph from their sleek Flora bistro, where they promise to serve their first burrito. With Forest City’s Uptown project, which almost single-handedly transformed lower Telegraph from a wasteland to an urban center, announcing great progress on leasing their 664 units, businesses see the area as a good investment.

Though the edges of the DTO are up and coming, the older center of town isn’t slouching. As previous noted, Tamarindo Antojeria and The Trappist are expanding into their next-door storefronts, relieving the crowds that crush these tiny but renowned spots. Despite this, Old Oakland continues to struggle to attract retail, with one closed retailer unfortunately converted to soon-to-be-illegal office space, and EBALDC’s Swan’s Market complex losing tenants. Across Broadway in old City Center, El Senor Burrito, a popular joint on San Pablo, is coming to 13th St in the restored Mash Building. In a time when terrible economic news is splashed on the front page of every newspaper, business expansion in the DTO is a welcome relief.