Living local, urban design, sustainability, landscape architecture, and places in the East Bay. Design that works where it is.

Oakland City Center Walk

There-Oakland City CenterCity Center Walk MapThe California Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) is hosting a conference in Oakland this weekend and I’ll be there. Well, I’ll be here because I live and work in Oakland. I’ve traveled to conferences before and they’re often located in areas that aren’t very walkable. I need my walk. As a result, I wait at crossing signals for ridiculous lengths of time, hike past acres of surface parking lots, and look longingly into dark coffee houses that are closed on weekends.

The good news: The conference is located right in the heart of our vibrant downtown and I know my way around. For all Oakland Convention Center visitors this or any weekend, here is an easy 1.25 mile walk designed for you. This route is best enjoyed 8-5, Monday-Friday because it takes you through the lobbies of two impressive public buildings. If you need your walk on the weekend, you can find your way around the blocks. At least the coffee shops will be open.

You needn’t worry about safety when walking in downtown Oakland during daylight hours. I do it every day. Just remember to pay more attention to your surroundings than to your phone and don’t leave your rental car parked on the street at night.

Frank H. Ogawa WayFrank Ogawa Plaza
Start walking north up Broadway from the Oakland Convention Center. After crossing 14th Street, make a slight left so you’re walking on the left side of the Lionel Wilson Building (originally the First National Bank Building). Now you’re in Frank Ogawa Plaza, center of all the “Occupy Oakland” hubub a few years ago. As you can see, the lawn has been replaced and the plaza is acting as a true town square. The large coast live oak in the center of the lawn is the Jack London Oak, planted in 1917. Representations of this particular oak can be found all over town, from the city logo to Oaklandish goods. This would be a good time to visit the Oaklandish Store Old Victorian and New State Bldgat 1444 Broadway. The sculpture near San Pablo Street is titled Vitality and was created by Oakland sculptor, Bruce Beasley.

Elihu M. Harris State Office Building
Make a slight left past the raised lawn, and take the walkway on the north side of the City Hall. From here, you catch your first glimpse of the Elihu M. Harris State Office Building. After crossing Clay Street, enter the glass atrium and head out the other side. The colored glass circles in the upper walkway guardrails always make me smile. Continue along 15th Street to Martin Luther King Way where you’ll turn left after crossing the street.

Old Main Oakland LibraryOriginal Oakland Main Library and First Unitarian Church of Oakland
Enjoy views of the tops of downtown high-rises as you walk to 14th Street where you’ll cross the street and turn right. I have a soft spot for Carnegie Libraries. The African American Museum and Library on the corner of 14th and MLK Way was opened in 1902 as the Oakland Main Library. Designed in the Italian Renaissance style by architects Bliss and Faville, it received the second California Carnegie grant of $50,000. As you continue down 14th Street, you’ll find the First Unitarian Church of Oakland, completed in 1891.

Preservation ParkPreservation Park
Turn left at the corner of 14th and Castro Streets and again at 12th Street. Pass through the portal into Preservation Park.This beautiful Victorian neighborhood was saved from demolition by public/private partnerships. The five Victorian homes north of 13th Street are in their original locations and the eleven remaining houses were moved here to save them from demolition when the freeway was constructed. The Parisian fountain in the center of the roundabout was salvaged from another home site in Oakland. Preservation Park is home to non-profit organizations and is available for public and private events. I recommend a stop at 150929 Federal Bldg bridge from 13th-smlthe interpretive exhibit at the MLK entrance to the park.

Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building
When you arrive at the fountain, you’re at the end of 13th Street which will take you all the way back to Broadway. After crossing MLK Way, the walkway leads you to Three Figures by Stephen De Staebler. The sculptures sit and stand watch over the amphitheater built against the wall of a parking structure. From here, you can see the sky bridge of the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building. If you’re fortunate to be here on a nice day, the enormous main doors will be open and you can see through them to City Center. If not, City Center with Tribune Bldgmake use of the doors on either side of the rotunda. The lobby is open M-F from 6am until 11pm.

Oakland City Center
After crossing Clay Street, you’ve arrived in Oakland City Center, a privately owned outdoor retail space with connections to BART, Frank Ogawa Plaza, and the high rise office buildings surrounding it. The sculpture at the center of the space by Roselyn Mazzilli, is titled There, in reference to the often misinterpreted line about Oakland by Gertrude Stein, “There is no there there”. This is one of my regular walks because of the pedestrian focus, the outdoor activity, the art, and the architecture. Much of the area is a product of a redevelopment plan started in the 1960s. It is a vibrant part of the City but I wonder what it would be today if the original street grid, historic apartment buildings, and ground-floor retail were still in place. If you think Downtown Oakland is exciting, read about Uptown Oakland!

Frank Ogawa Plaza
Elihu M. Harris State Office Building
African American Museum Library at Oakland
First Unitarian Church of Oakland
Preservation Park
Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building
Oakland City Center

Please click on a photo to start the slideshow.

2 comments on “Oakland City Center Walk

  1. Aunt Beulah
    October 30, 2015

    What a wonderful walking tour this is. I’m sorry I’m retired and no longer go to conferences, but I do still travel, and your descriptions along with your photographs make me think an Oakland/San Francisco trip might be in order, with the emphasis being on Oakland, with which I’m unfamiliar. For instance, I had never heard of the Jack London tree. The City of Oakland should hire you to write promotional material for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • taglinedesign
      November 4, 2015

      Thank you, Janet. I recommend a visit to Oakland, especially if you enjoy eating out and walking in nature or in older neighborhoods. I love reading your blog. -Valerie


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