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3 The Sun Rises in the East

Oaklands business community acts on an ambitious endeavor

Uptown Downtown
city of oakland

Lake Merritt/Uptown and Downtown Oakland Districts

7 Whole Foods

Livens the Hood & Downtown

8 Map of Uptown
Things to do, places to see in Uptown & Downtown

10 Oaklands Prophets
Business leaders discuss the future of Oakland

12 Oakland is Cooking
Up Success
Renovation of historic theaters is rejuvenating the restaurant industry

Special puBlication By



Downtowns B Restaurant

WElcoME to UPtoWn doWntoWn

hose of us who live or work in the East Bay have known about Oaklands best-kept secrets for years. But the growing street scene, great new restaurants, arts and entertainment venues, stunning new housing and the progressive architecture of Oaklands new Lake Merritt/Uptown and Downtown business districts are a hard secret to keep. The word is out that this is now the chosen place to work, eat, sleep, be with friends and enjoy the urban experience both day and night. So, welcome to The Districts. In the pages that follow, you will find a snapshot of Uptown/Downtown Oaklandhow these Community Benefit Districts came to be and what special benefits they provide that are integral to the transformation of these neighborhoods. You will read the stories of business owners and investors who, by establishing the Downtown and Uptown districts as the best places to invest, became catalysts for their remarkable growth. And you will read about the districts great new restaurants and the success stories of their owners. Funding for district services commenced at the beginning of 2009, and already the transformation of the Downtown and Lake Merritt/Uptown Districts into communities consistently sought after as locations for business and residence, and destinations for dining and entertainment, has reached irreversible momentum. This publication is all about the remarkable growth of new businesses small and largebusinesses that are radically changing Oaklands heart into the true 24-hour living experience that the citys leadership has been nurturing for years. Weve included a great map, some interesting facts on places as diverse as the surprising new lunch scene at Whole Foodsthe Bay Place market is one of the most successful new outlets for the retailer nationallyto the jaw-dropping majesty of our soaring new Cathedral on Lake Merritt. The booklet contains information on how to get to the districts by car and public transit including, of course, BART. There is location information for new restaurants and important entertainment venues, including beautifully restored theaters offering live music and performances that bring people to the districts from all over the Bay Area. Youll discover that there are lots of reasons to get off the freeway in Downtown Oakland and come to the districts by day or night.

Marco Li Mandri, executive Director (510) 452-4529 Steve Snider, District Manager (510) 238-1122 address: 388 19th Street, oakland, ca 94612

Deborah Boyer president, lake Merritt/uptown District

Web links: www.lakemerritt-uptown.org www.twitter.com/uptownoakland www.downtownoakland.org www.twitter.com/downtownoakland

J.C. Wallace president, Downtown oakland District

f E at U R E

the SUn RiSeS in the eaSt

oaklands business community acts on an ambitious endeavor.
By Robert J. Mullins

aLL phOTOS By chad ZiEMEndoRf

ts the noon hour at downtown Oaklands Frank Ogawa Plaza, and thousands of employees in the government buildings that surround it are on their lunch breaks. Some dine at outdoor cafs while others stroll through the plaza observing the busy passers-by. Marco Li Mandri considers the scene and quickly underscores the obvious: Frank Ogawa Plaza is a great public space in downtown Oakland, said Li Mandri, executive director of the Downtown Oakland Association and the adjacent Lake Merritt/Uptown District Association. The two associations are referred to as business improvement districts (BIDs) or community benefit districts (CBDs), and their mandate has been to revitalize the heart of Oakland. Transforming [it] into a more desirable area is one of the goals of the CBD, said Li Mandri. Li Mandris company, New City America Inc., manages the associations, which were created to improve the two adjacent areas of downtown. Their approach is multifaceted, emphasizing not only improved aesthetics but also visitor comfort. Besides paying to help keep the streets clean and the sidewalks maintained, the CBDs employ a team of hired ambassadors who walk the streets daily, providing directions when a newcomer needs help and alerting authorities when

something doesnt seem quite right. After less than a year in operation, the efforts of the CBDs are already visible. The streets are filled with residents from Contra Costa County, Alameda, Emeryville, many different Oakland neighborhoods and San Francisco, says Deborah Boyer, president of the Lake Merritt/Uptown District Association and an executive for The Swig Co., a San Francisco development company that owns property in downtown Oakland. The Oakland City Council created the CBDs in July 2008, and they started operation just six months later, at the beginning of 2009. Assessments on property owners from the 37-square block Lake Merritt/Uptown district have raised an estimated $1.1 million so far, while assessments in the 19-block Downtown Oakland district raised $904,000, said Aliza Gallo, Oaklands business development services manager in the Community and Economic Development Agency. Oakland is ready and doing business, she says. Private enterprise largely drove the creation of the community benefit districts, though the city is an active partner. As the largest property owner in the Downtown Oakland district, the city contributes an assessment to the CBD on behalf of City Hall and its other buildings. Besides monitoring and financially supporting the CBDs,
continued next page Oaklands Uptown | Downtown

Fall 2009

f E at U R E

the city also promotes other programs to build upon the associations of office space and 70,000 square feet of destination dining and retail. efforts. Among other things, it shares demographic information about City Centers owners invested in the CBD to improve the adjoining the community to help new businesses get established and to grow the neighborhood and, by extension, the quality of its own investment, residential population. It also offers grants to downtown businesses for says John Dolby, vice president of leasing for Shorenstein Properties, faade improvements as well as free design advice. which has owned City Center since 1996. The two CBDs have separate boards and different development Its just common sense, Dolby says. profiles but often hold joint meetings because they have common Many downtown employers support the work of the CBDs goals, Gallo said. The Lake Merritt/Uptown district is a combination as a way to make their companies more desirable places to work. of office development in Lake Merritt and retail, entertainment and Kaiser Permanente, the hospital and health-care company renewed housing in Uptown, while Downtown Oakland is primarily office its headquarters lease in August with CIM Group in the 28-story space with a preponderance of government offices around Frank Ordway Building in the Lake Merritt/Uptown district. Ogawa Plaza. It also includes the retail node of Old Oakland around We really want to be the employer of choice in the Bay Area, says 8th and 9th streets. Michael Huaco, vice president for corporate real estate and facilities The CBDs have hired 14 safety ambassadors to be friendly eyes operations at the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan. Our interests are in on the streets, says J.C. Wallace, vice president of real estate firm SKS preserving the value of our assets and improving the community for its Investments. Wallaces company owns an office building and an office members as well as our employees. development site in downtown, and he is president of the Downtown Jeanne Myerson, president and chief executive of The Swig Co., Oakland Association. When you are here you see downtown Oakland says their 2005 acquisition of the 28-story Kaiser Center was a strategic for what it is: Something separate from the problems they might be investment in the emerging Uptown/Lake Merritt district. having in other neighborhoods. We saw Kaiser Center as an under-positioned opportunity that The 14 safety ambassadors, who work for Block by Block of would continue to improve over time, Myerson says. Louisville, Ky., a safety, cleaning and hospitality operator with a presence Tenants in the Kaiser Center, which was built in the mid-1950s by in 33 U.S. cities, are intended to be noticeable, wearing easy-to-spot prominent American industrialist Henry J. Kaiser, include the Kaiser bright orange and blue polo shirts and navy baseball caps. They are Foundation Health Plan, Bay Area Rapid Transit system, California trained tour guides who know local directions, mass-transit schedules and the answers to other common visitor questions. In addition, urban cleanup crews promptly replace any broken windows, paint over graffiti and generally keep the neighborhood looking its best. The ambassadors interact with the public all day long, says Ted Tarver, operations manager for the safety ambassadors in Oakland. When you give people a friendly smile and a Good morning, it enhances their day. They are the ones creating the sense of order and cleanliness within the curb to property line area, says Li Mandri. An anchor of the Downtown Oakland CBD is City Center, a combination of private office and retail Aliza Gallo space across from Oakland City Hall. oaklands business development City Center has 1.6 million square feet service manager in the community

Oakland is ready and doing business.

and economic Development agency

Bank and Trust, the office of the president of the University of California system and the law firm Wulfsberg Reese Colvig & Firstman PC. By cleaning up that area, we are making it seamless for workers, residents and visitors to feel comfortable sitting at an outdoor caf, drinking a latt and checking their iPhones and BlackBerries, Li Mandri says. You have to stabilize an area first, he says, then begin to build. Added the Lake Merritt/Uptown CBDs Boyer: It seems to many that Oakland has been forever on the verge of a great transition. This time there is more than just a feeling that weve finally found our there. l

Oaklands Uptown | Downtown

Clockwise: 1. Downtowns ambassadors 2. Kaiser center 3. John Dolby, oakland city center, Shorenstein 4. cathedral building 5. old meets new 6. tribune building 7. old oakland 8. Frank H. ogawa plaza

Oaklands Uptown | Downtown

f E at U R E

What is a community Benefit District?

The Uptown/Lake Merritt District Association and Downtown Oakland Association are Community Benefit Districtspublic private partnershipsenabled by local legislation and created to provide special enhanced services to their respective areas of Oakland. Marco Li Mandri, president of San Diego-based New City America Inc., worked with business owners in both districts to form the CBDs in the summer of 2008 and now helps manage the associations as their executive director. Li Mandri has been involved in business-district revitalization since 1993 and his company has established 54 business improvement districts and community benefit districts in cities throughout the United States. We asked Li Mandri to discuss the current trend in the United States toward creation of CBDs and other improvement districts and what makes them work.

Marco li Mandri, president of new city america, inc.

What is a community benefit district? What is the difference between a community benefit district and a business improvement district? A community benefit district is a public-private partnership formed under the same principles and legislation as a business improvement district, but whereas a BID focuses mostly on business within a district, a CBD acknowledges that all land uses, not simply businesses, benefit from the revenue flow generated by the assessment district. This is important today because more of our downtown neighborhoods are populated by residential buildings. In Oakland, the two CBDs represent many public entities and non-profits as well as for-profit businesses, so the CBD concept was particularly appropriate. When did community benefit districts start appearing in the United States? Why? Community benefit districts were first developed in Maryland in the 1980s, but BIDs date back to the early 1970s in Toronto. Local merchants banded together to form an association dedicated to reviving business along a fading commercial corridor known as Bloor Street West. New Orleans established the first American BID in 1974, but the U.S. really experienced tremendous growth in BIDs in the 1990s, when almost 60 percent of the BIDs now in existence were formed. Can several CBDs exist within a single city? Yes. There are nearly 1,000 BIDs in the United States including one covering Capitol Hill in Washington DC. Toronto now has 65 such districts in its city limits, one more than New York City. Certainly, several community benefit districts can co-exist within a single city, as Oakland has shown. The Lake Merritt/Uptown and Downtown Oakland associations are a

tremendous example of two CBDs with shared goals working together to benefit a broad swath of downtown Oakland. Oakland has six BIDs and three CBDs. San Francisco has eight CBDs, one BID and a tourism improvement district (TID). CBDs are really the BIDs of the 21st century because our downtowns are becoming more residential. What kinds of services can or should the CBD supply? Residents, property owners and businesses in the district must have a clear need for services that are over and above the general benefit services provided by the city. That said, there are a vast variety of services that can legally be funded by CBDs. As a property assessment district, a CBD must confer special benefit to real property owners, according to California law. Normally, these services represent special benefits geared toward order and cleanliness in the district such as daily sidewalk cleaning, removal of trash and teams to remove graffiti. Other services that CBDs could provide include security, beautification, marketing and promotion, special events, business attraction, district identity and administrative oversight. Arent CBDs taking over services that cities traditionally provide through taxes? City-funded services are known as general benefit services and are supposed to be provided proportionally throughout the city. At times, a city may provide enhanced general benefits for a downtown or key commercial area, but those are funded on a year-to-year basis. Oakland is really just a microcosm of what is happening throughout the United States. Cities are reducing general benefit services due to local and state budget cuts, declining revenue, growing pension obligations and deteriorating infrastructure, and this historic decline in city services is feeding the demand for special benefits in order to maintain the value of commercial and residential properties. Whats the most critical issue in forming a CBD? Without doubt, timing. In Downtown Oakland and Lake Merritt/Uptown, the timing was perfect. Property owners and businesses were ready to come together and unite in a common goal. Having that energy in place was critical. Id also say that execution is another key factor. Forming the district is one thing; management is something else completely. In my experience, the failure of most existing BIDs and CBDs is that they are not managed properly or results-oriented. Despite the history behind CBDs, this is still pretty much a new field, so training is mostly on the job for staff running these districts. l

Oaklands Uptown | Downtown

R E ta i l

Whole Foods Livens its neighborhood

ven though she lives just a stones throw from the Berkeley Whole Foods grocery store, Rockridge resident Jennie Hearing chooses to pack up her 2-year-old daughter Sienna and drive the 10 minutes its takes to get to Oaklands Whole Foods. Both stores feature the same natural and organic selections. Both stores offer prepared foods, pristine produce, high-quality meats, seafood and a bakery. Yet its the great parking and a spacious and well-designed market that give Hearing enough reason to make the Oakland store her daily grocer. Located at 230 Bay Place at the corner of 27th and Harrison streets, Whole Foods opened its doors in September 2007 with much fanfare. The area, comprised of mainly car dealerships, office and residential pockets, was a section of the city that simply wasnt drawing in people. The area was just therenot much happening there, so there was really no reason to go there. I have lived here a while and before Whole Foods, I didnt even know it was sort of a gateway to Lake Merritt; its a great spot, Hearing said. The area certainly caught the attention of store developersenough for the Whole Foods team to take an entirely different approach to its development, creating a first-of-a-kind store layout with the Oakland community in mind. The store was designed specifically for the progressive, food-sophisticated, dynamic and diverse culture of Oakland and the surrounding communities, Anthony Gilmore, president of Whole Foods Market Northern California, said during the stores grand opening. The store layout does not resemble a typical supermarket or other Whole Foods stores around the country. A Market Hall design allows

shoppers to access all departments and venues in a single loop, making the shopping experience both quick and easy, with its separate stalls full of different goods. This design was inspired by several international market halls from around the globe including ones in Berlin and Granville Island, Vancouver, according to Whole Foods. On any given day, the store bustles with a diverse mix of shoppers and professionals who walked to take advantage of its dine-in Market Bistro or made-to-order salads, soups, sandwiches, pizzas and light entrees. Its a sign of a huge stride, of great growth for an area that was teetering on the edge of neglect. The stores arrival has had a dramatic effect on the area, said Paul Stein, managing partner with SKS Investments, the firm responsible for developing the nearby 1100 Broadway, a 20-floor high-rise tower that incorporates the restored faade of the Key Systems Building at the lower eight floors. SKS is one of a number of companies making a big bet on Oakland, and a store like Whole Foods brings a real, tangible improvement to the neighborhood. No one was walking the block before the stores existence, and now its slammed with people. The issue on retail is if you have good retail, people will use it. Whole Foods delivers a product people are interested in, and its really no huge surprise that its a huge success, added Stein. For Hearing, that is a sign of whats to come for Oakland. Its just a couple blocks from Uptown over on Broadway, its near Lake Merritt, it is changing the area, she said. Aside from sprouting life in an area considered dead to many, Hearing is proud that her city has a store dedicated to bringing local, healthy and more natural foods to a larger population. Whole Foods is a great addition to the area, and people are really using it, Hearing said. l

Oaklands Uptown | Downtown

Uptown or Downtown

good things are happening in oakland







This city in the heart of the Bay Area is boasting a revived sense of pride, an active citizenry and leadership to unlock Oaklands true potential. Since their inception at the beginning of 2009, the Downtown Oakland Association and Lake Merritt/ Uptown District Association have made significant strides in making Oakland not just an enjoyable place to live and play, but also a place for employers to


Uptown has been designated as oaklands first arts & entertainment district launched through an enormously successful Uptown Unveiled! event in June 2009. More than 10,000 people visited the district for the celebration.



16 32
Adams Park



31 29 27


plant their roots.




33 7 37



1 Whole Foods 2 Mua lounge

3 15

17 era art Bar & lounge

16 Mimosa Champagne Bar 31 packard lofts 32 Upper lake Merritt

34 38 36


R W. G



17 18

Lakeside Park

3 picn 4 ozumo 5 Farleys east 6 Vos 7 specialtys Bakery 8 Cafe Madrid 9 sears

18 Franklin square

residential Wine Bar 19 lukas taproom & lounge

20 paramount theatre 21 Uptown night Club 22 Fox oakland theater 10 Flora 23 somar Bar & lounge 11 aroma Bakery & Cafe 12 Bay Fung tong

33 100 grand 34 Broadway grand 35 the Uptown



36 Center twenty one 37 lake Merritt tower 38 ordway Building



B S L.








Lake Merritt


24 touchstone Climbing

39 kaiser Center



& Fitness

40 lake Merritt plaza 25 snow park 26 lakeside park


tea house 13 the lunch Box 14 pho 84

9 11

the recently refurbished $57 million Fox oakland theater (22) and venerable paramount theatre (20) anchored Uptowns recent revival as they did in the late 1920s when the district was originally developed by h.C. Capwell.

40 25
Snow Park

15 Cathedral of Christ

27 Childrens Fairyland 28 adams park

35 12



the light

29 lake Merritt

dance Center
30 YMCa


21 10




41 entrez! open house 42 ichiro Japanese 44 sushi Bar 43 awaken Cafe 57 Clorox 58 oakland City 67 radio 68 the layover 69 Caf Van kleef 70 Bench & Bar 44 golden lotus 45 Vegetarian restaurant 45 Ba Vo 56 tribune tower 66 air lounge 55 1100 Broadway 54 1111 Broadway 65 trappist Belgian &




specialty Beer Bar






Public Transit

Oakland Convention Center


Downtown Transit Center


how to get here

Bart to oakland-12th st/City Center (downtown) and 19th street (Uptown) stations




63 49 66








From san Francisco, Walnut Creek, i-980: take 14th street to downtown/City Center and left on Broadway for Uptown From san Jose, i-880 to i-980: take 14th street to Broadway





For More Information

www.lakemerritt-uptown.org www.twitter.com/uptownoakland www.downtownoakland.org www.twitter.com/downtownoakland

Map not to scale. listings are subject to change.







70 61
A.C. Transit Lake 46 Caff Verbena Chalet
47 le Cheval 48 Breads of india 49 pacific Coast 52 Brewing Company







41 69
Seafood Bar & Grill
Center plaza 59 City hall 60 rotunda Building 61 Franklin Building




62 Marriott City Center 63 Washington inn


in 2002, oakland voters passed a $198 million bond measure focusing on waterfront improvements at lake Merritt and the oakland estuary. new parks, public art, creek restorations and historic building renovations are underway including the old lake Merritt Municipal Boathouse recently transformed into the spectacular 350-seat lake Chalet seafood Bar & grill.

50 B restaurant 51 levende east 52 Caff 817

71 Cathedral Building 72 Joyce gordon gallery 73 old oakland


53 tamarindo

lake Merritt/ Uptown and downtown oakland associations now boast more than 80 major restaurants and cafs, plus 35 galleries and 40 clubs and bars. Most were not part of the landscape 5 to 10 years ago.
64 Courtyard by Marriott





45 44




67 56





nearly 300,000 visitors poured into downtown oakland this past summer for annual festivals, most of which did not exist five years ago.




Oaklands Prophets

Charlie Allen is a senior director for cushman & Wakefield, a real estate leasing and management company. cushman has been doing business in oakland since the mid1980s. it is the leasing agent for about 1.3 million square feet of mostly office space in downtown oakland.

Thomas W. Hart is an executive vice president of privately owned, San Francisco-based Shorenstein properties. the company is one of the countrys oldest and most-respected real estate organizations active nationally in the ownership and operation of high-quality office properties. Shorensteins involvement in downtown oakland began in 1996 with the purchase of oakland city center, a five building, 1.5 million square-foot class a office and retail development, which sits atop the 12th Street/ oakland city center BaRt station.

Jeanne Myerson is president and chief executive officer of the Swig company, a real estate investment company that specializes in downtown office buildings in major cities across the country. in 2005 it acquired the Kaiser center office tower on the shores of lake Merritt in oakland. the Kaiser center resides on a 7.2-acre parcel and consists of a t-shaped, 28-story office tower, a three-story office and retail building and an adjacent five-story, 1,339-space parking garage with a rooftop garden.

There is perhaps no better way to showcase the success of a certain region than to hear directly from the people who have a vested interest in it. Considering all that is good with Oakland, these business leaders acted on their best intuition and information to find their actions extremely prudent. We sat down with these prophets to find out how Oakland has helped them in achieving their goals and how the creation of the districts has improved the outlook of their investments.

On Oakland
hUaco: Oakland is very undervalued. The CIM [Corp.] just recently bought the Ordway Building. They saw the value of Oakland as a long-term asset. Oaklands a major transportation hub on the West Coast; theres great public transportation [and] access to the rest of the Bay Area. I really see the true potential with the recent building of the residential space. That true potential hasnt reached its goals yet, but it probably will get there over the next decade. MyERSon: We see Oakland as being something about to happen. A lot of the investments that came about as the result of the Fox Theater [renovation], our purchase of Kaiser Center and CIM Groups purchases in Oakland have really begun to be felt in a positive way. Oakland is also a less volatile market than some of the more prominent office markets. We like that stability factor. StEin: Oakland has spectacular transit, everybody can get to Oakland; it has better access than any other city. Our firm has always been interested in development that benefits from transit and housing. It is now called smart growth and green development, if you will. haRt: We believe that Oaklands [geographic] superiorityit is essentially at the center of the Bay Areas major growth patterns lends itself to attract more than its fair share of office users. StaffoRd: Oaklands central East Bay location and easy access to infrastructure are benefits often cited, but people tend to underappreciate the importance. Oaklands central business district has 10 million square feet of Class A office space and is served by two BART stops. By comparison, San Franciscos central business district has 40 million square feet of Class A office product and two BART stations. The foundation is in place for Oakland to experience tremendous growth.

Business districts make a positive impact on life

allEn: Its been a positive influence on prospective tenants who


Oaklands Uptown | Downtown

Michael Huaco is vice president for corporate real estate and facilities operations at Kaiser Foundation Health plan. Kaiser, the hospital and health insurance concern with 7,000 administrative employees working downtown, is the largest employer in the district.

Paul Stein is a managing partner of SKS investments, an investor, advisor, manager and developer of commercial real estate properties in northern california. SKS and its affiliates have acquired, developed and repositioned more than five million square feet of office space and more than 380 housing units in multiple projects. the firm has a keen interest in the social and financial impact of sustainable development in high-density transitoriented corridors.

Scott Stafford is first vice president of investments at ciM Group. He manages the day-to-day activities for ciM in oakland. ciMs holdings in the cBDs include 1333 Broadway, the center city Marriott, the courtyard oakland Downtown in the downtown oakland cBD, the ordway Building, 2101 Webster and three other properties in the lake Merritt cBD. Stafford is vice president of both the lake Merritt/ uptown and Downtown oakland cBDs.

have toured the market and have looked at the different options in town. All the landlords and brokers are describing to these companies what has changed and what is going on here, and thats had a really positive impact. StEin: There has been pretty significant on-the-street difference already, and its just getting started. The appearance of streets, trash collection, street sweeping, security, they are very helpful The festivals and street fairs, farmers markets, music festivals, its all good stuff. MyERSon: With the wine bars and restaurants, people hang around after hours now and do things in the area. The plaza around the new Cathedral [of Christ the Light] is a delightful place to sit and have lunch. There are more places to go, and there is beginning to be more street activity. Its more of a 24-hour community. StaffoRd: The energy downtown has changed dramatically in just the last 18 months with the opening of each new retailer or restaurant furthering the momentum and enticing others to the market. hUaco: In just the last few months, weve seen a slew of new restaurants opening and some of that infrastructure coming in. While I cant directly tie it to the improvement district, I think that goes a long way in facilitating the cleanup of the area. One of the big pushes in Oakland in October is the opening of Bakesale Bettys, which is right across the street from Lukas, Ozumo and Picn [restaurants], all of which have opened in the last year. It is creating a great entertainment district in the area, which just makes it a more attractive area to live.

Working in the city

StEin: It has been tremendously easy working with the city. I think that its been a true partnership. Before we bought the site, we spent time with city and business people to hear what their goals were in terms of development and jobs, and what we attempted to do was in concert with what was happening there. Getting entitlements went very well, the principal planner was great, and the project was received very well. We didnt jump into a contentious situation; the interaction with the city was extremely well-managed, organized, and it went through a smooth process. It was a very positive experience. StaffoRd: Oakland has accessible and engaged elected officials and government agencies that are focused on maintaining positive momentum in downtown Oakland. They have a vision for the future that builds on the areas central location, accessibility and attractive, walkable environment that will continue to draw new businesses and residents to downtown. They recognize that the CBDs are positive forces that can supplement the existing public infrastructure and are learning how best to leverage our resources. The creation of the community benefit districts for City Center and Lake Merritt has brought increased security as well as sidewalk and street-maintenance services that have already visibly improved the neighborhoods. Retail and restaurants are sprouting up all over Oakland making it a better place to live and work, which improves the quality of life for all of our tenants and hotel guests. We are still in our first year, and I have been very impressed with how well things are meshing at this stage in our evolution. l

Oaklands Uptown | Downtown


E n t E Rta i n M E n t

Oakland is Cooking Up Success

Renovation of historic theaters is rejuvenating the local restaurant industry.
By aimee lewis Strain

en miles east of San Francisco, an emerging entertainment district is garnering attention with its hip atmosphere and tantalizing restaurants. Nestled adjacent to the newly renovated Fox Theater and surrounding art galleries, Oaklands Uptown is fast becoming a Bay Area destination. Uptown is in the heart of downtown Oaklands central business district.The area has become a much sought-after locale, complementing the already popular old historic Oakland, which with its restored Victorian buildings has been a local draw for years. The Art Decothemed urban retail and entertainment neighborhood is becoming a hot spot for Oakland residents, as well as the bridge and tunnel crowd, according to Michael LeBlanc, managing partner and owner of Picn, a restaurant that opened in Uptown eight months ago. With its fresh new restaurants, theaters, shops and galleries, the Uptown District is a shining example of life springing up in an area that was only a few years ago considered a blighted and declining neighborhood. The historic Paramount and Fox theaters spill out hundreds of guests following their shows. Together the two venues, which have been extensively restored and renovated, form a strong basis for the districts renewal and are the core of its gravitational pull. Even restaurants in the nearby Old Oakland, an area just southwest of the City Center, also benefit from the entertainment districts activity. According to Chuck Stilphen, owner of The Trappist Belgian and specialty beer bar at 460 Eighth St., people are drawn to its unique offering of more than 20 rotating beer taps featuring an array of specialty micro brews. He says the beer bar captures a sizable after-work crowd, as well as the one following a show at one of the theaters. According to Nicole Erny, a bartender and beer educator at The

Trappist since its inception in December 2007, the area really lends itself to success. The buildings are beautiful, and there are lots of great spots to dine, Erny said. People come here before and after a show or dinner at one of the great restaurants Tamarindo is a few doors down, and they are popping all the time. Tamarindo, which serves upscale Mexican cuisine, has been so successful in its Eighth Street location a few doors down from Trappist, that it opened La Calle, a new taqueria, one block up from Tamarindo at 1000 Broadway. As the theaters have prospered and other private investment has come in, the Uptown area has clinched several white-table cloth restaurants, each exhibiting its own flare and uniqueness. Owners say it is not just their cuisine that is driving prosperity. The city has embraced their arrival and allowed business to flourish through a welcoming process. The city fathers, business associations and council members have been phenomenalthey truly welcomed us with open arms, said Ozumo founder and managing partner Jeremy Umland. With its widely respected Ozumo in San Franciscos SOMA district, Umland found the experience opening his doors in Oakland to be a comparative walk in the park. People kept telling me that Oakland is the place where you can do really well. They were right, said Umland. Ozumo offers contemporary Japanese cuisine and robata grill, sushi and sashimi, as well as an extensive selection of premium, imported sake, wine and unique blended drinks. I have had patrons take me aside and express their support for us. These people really are eager to see Oakland come into its own, and they truly appreciate what is happening here, Umland says.


Oaklands Uptown | Downtown

Opposite page, clockwise: picn; B Restaurant; ozumo This page, clockwise: Flora; Michael leBlanc; pacific coast Brewing company

Caff 817 owner Lilian Massarweh Flora is the second restaurant that says she was a regular at Caff 817 before Schnetz and Dona Savitsky have opened she took it over. We used to frequent the in Oakland; the first is Doa Toms Michael LeBlanc owner and managing partner caf and loved the location of it and the people further north on Telegraph Avenue. of restaurant picn who eat here. When we were told it was up for We had the first restaurant and were sale in 2005, we took it over, Massarweh said. The playing around with the idea for Flora when we restaurant, which has been in its namesake spot at 817 came upon the [Uptown] area, which offered such Washington St. since 1993, offers a Mediterranean-style breakfast beautiful buildings we thought it was a good find for us, and lunch. The caf also hosts wine events and is a community art Schnetz said. loyalist, featuring exhibits by local artists on the restaurant walls. In Old Oakland, B Restaurant at Washington and Ninth Street Picns LeBlanc says he also is floored by the reception he has with its impressive floor-to-ceiling windows and uniquely designed received from his favorite city in the world. Open since March, Picn interiors is another such spot known for its signature house cocktails offers a tasty California-infused flare to traditional Southern cuisine. and its 1870s remodeled buildings architectural perfection. Although Diners can enjoy a variety of small plate selections to sample the it pulls a cornucopia of local diners, many go the distance to enjoy offerings, or individual entrees such as duck, choice of meat, seafood fantastic fare in a distinctively Oakland setting. and a wide selection of sides. In the last five years, there has been a huge movement to get the Its doing outstanding; pretty short of spectacular Dinners most creative and best restaurants to commit to Oakland, Schnetz says. popularity is so high that on a Friday or Saturday at prime time were With that collective push has come a strong sense of community that about two weeks out in terms of reservations, LeBlanc said. makes it nice for customers and the business owners. One of the newer restaurateurs in the area, LeBlanc says he is Ozumos Umland agreed: We are pioneers here in Oakland; we continuously surprised by how pro-business the City has been with a are not competitors. We support each other, send each other business. desire to create such a positive image for itself. It is rare to have, but we respect each other and realize that were all in They are willing to help us. They say, Whatever the obstacles, this together, and if all of us are going to make it, then individually we lets do whatever we can to help people through it to make it a better have to make it. place, LeBlanc said. Oakland for its own part is doing its best to preserve this attitude. Flora restaurant, located in the beautifully ornate Oakland Floral Its as good as any place in San Franciscoto have walking traffic Depot building directly across the street from the Fox Theater, offers in a six-block area, you have up to 10 choices of things you want to do, a menu of reinvented American classics with a cocktail program that Picns LeBlanc said. You can have appetizers at Ozumo, go to a show differs from most bars with its extensive wine list and an array of stirred at the Fox, dinner at Picn, champagne at Mimosas, dance at Mua, and shaken cocktails, Thomas Schnetz, its owner, said. have a night-cap at Flora or LukasId say thats a good night! l

Dinners popularity is so high that on a Friday or Saturday at prime time were about two weeks out in terms of reservations.

Oaklands Uptown | Downtown


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