downtown oakland
Downtown Oakland circa 1910

Posts from — May 2009

Hidden openings in the DTO

May 29, 2009

In journalism, it’s called burying the lede. In dialogue, it’s an aside. This week, the juiciest information about openings in downtown Oakland came from a careful reading of an article and a blog. In a wide-ranging interview with Bakesale Betty herself, the Trib’s Dave Newhouse reveals the opening date of Uptown’s new Bakesale Betty’s bakery: in September! Meanwhile, an SF Weekly blog about Souley Vegan’s prepared dishes at the Grand Lake Farmers’ Market mentions that the vegan soul food cook hopes to reopen a downtown location this summer, at 3rd and Broadway.

There’s hidden information, and then there’s rumor and innuendo, which I suppose is a form of information. From the rumor mill, an Uptown steakhouse, and new dance club or two, and an Old Oakland take on hip Japanese cuisine are said to be in the works. Frozen yogurt is now being served in City Center, providing another place to get a sweet treat. With the Parkway perhaps getting a lifeline, it seems like anything is possible. Except perhaps a reopened Kaiser Auditorium.

Today, the Washington Inn continues its Friday night comedy series in Old Oakland; Mike Moto headlines. Jack London Square continues its nighttime dance lessons under the stars with American Tango. And Oaklandish is bringing back its Salsa by the Lake event this Sunday, though in Splash Pad Park to avoid Measure DD construction.

Finally, Mignonne Decor closes the doors on three charming years in Old Oakland with a sale today and tomorrow on vintage housewares and furniture. Though the store is, if anything, moving up in the world (it will soon find itself in West Berkeley’s furniture district), Old Oaklanders are disappointed that four gifts and clothing boutiques have closed in less than a year. But with some exciting things in the works for Uptown and other parts of the DTO, we hopefully won’t have to wait long for a new place to patronize! Sadly, though, we won’t read about it on OaklandGoods.

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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.