Living local, urban design, sustainability, landscape architecture, and places in the East Bay. Design that works where it is.
Named a Great Neighborhood by the American Planning Association, Oakland’s Uptown continues to soar. Last Saturday, I took a walk with the California Planning Foundation to find out why. The conversation started with a description of Jerry Brown’s 10K plan, developed when he was mayor of Oakland (1999-2007). His vision was to bring 10,000 new residents to downtown and Jack London Square and renew the historic Arts and Entertainment district in Uptown. As we walked through the neighborhood, we learned about how Oakland made it happen, and saw for ourselves how successfully the plan is playing out.
You’ve probably heard about Art Murmur, a giant street party that takes place in Uptown on the First Friday of every month. You’ve likely been to the excellent music venues, restaurants, and night clubs that have been proliferating for the past several years. You’ve noticed the new transit-oriented housing developments, the new Art Park, and even some successful retail businesses like Oaklandish. Here are a few things you may not have known:
One of our Governor’s ideas was to create two charter schools and bring one of them to Uptown. Before a space was ready, Oakland School for the Arts operated out of a tent, in a parking lot between 18th and 19th Streets adjacent to San Pablo Avenue. Today, it shares a home with the historic Fox Theater. The school is a success story in its own right but it has also enlivened the Uptown neighborhood by bringing youth to the streets, venues, and parks during weekdays.
When the Loma Prieta earthquake hit Oakland in 1989, there was little financial incentive to demolish damaged buildings and start over. This turned out to be a boon for the beautiful, historic buildings that have been restored. Lack of interest in Uptown properties gave the Oakland Heritage Alliance and the City a chance to figure out ways to save the original buildings or facades. Many of the buildings are designed in the Art Deco style, and faced with glazed terra-cotta.
The City also provides matching grants to businesses in designated areas to renovate their exteriors. Free architectural assistance and 50 percent matching grants of between $10,000 and $30,000 are available to property and business owners for eligible projects.
The Capwell Building
This is a story of anticipated success. After the earthquake damaged the Beaux-Arts style department store, the retrofit included covering the original windows and terra-cotta cladding with concrete. The building that housed Sears since 1996, was purchased by Lane Partners who began renovation last November. The new design promises to bring back the windows and reopen the interior BART entrance. The ground floor will feature restaurants and foodie retail while the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors are reserved for tech tenants.
A Bike Station has opened up near the 19th Street BART entrance. It has free, attended parking for 130 bikes from 7 am to 9 pm on weekdays. They offer bike repair and tune-ups as well as basic bike accessories. If you have too much fun Uptown to ride your bike home, you can leave it overnight for a $5 fee.
17th Street Gateway
The 17th Street entrance to the 19th Street BART station features new artwork inspired by the Oakland Hills, San Francisco Bay, flashy auto paint, and the blue tile of the station. The sculpture, Shifting Topographies, by Dan Corson, is painted with color-shifting paint that changes hue depending on the angle of the sun. At one end of the station, emergency ventilation shafts are disguised with topographic patterns on blue mirrored glass. Shapes of light are projected on the sculpture at night assuring that this a work of art that never stands still.
Never standing still is a good description of the whole Uptown neighborhood: It just keeps getting better.
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