Civic Innovation in Oakland Surges
Members of Oakland’s growing tech community and city workers embracing civic technology met with Oakland residents at CityCamp Oakland to develop literally hundreds of innovative ideas for improving Oakland city government. The second annual un-conference was organized by OpenOakland, a civic hacking brigade that emerged out of Code for America, the national non-profit that pairs young programmers with local governments. This month, the City is sponsoring Qeyno Labs’ #MBKHack: My Brother’s Keeper hackathon, pairing young student trailblazers with technologists and community leaders to build web and mobile apps to solve social challenges. Civic innovation is also physically and virtually remaking City Hall: look for a new innovation lab for city employees to open later this year, followed by a redesigned Digital Front Door for accessing city services online. For more information, contact Online Engagement Manager Mai-Ling Garcia.
A Sweet Factory Expansion in West Oakland
OCHO Candy (“Organic Chocolate) of West Oakland has announced plans for a major expansion this summer into a nearby 25,000 square foot production facility. OCHO has employed more than 40 Oaklanders since opening in the neighborhood last year, including many neighborhood residents. Their pristine factory environment reflects standards of contemporary food production, focusing on quality, taste and food safety. Despite their degrees in food science and extensive business backgrounds, the company’s leaders say the most part of their success is taste. "We have a term, the 'OCHO Face,' which you had when you ate that first bite," says co-owner Dennis Ring. "What I call deliciousness." Read more about OCHO on the city-sponsored www.westoaklandworks.com.
New Retail Merchants Fill Ogawa Plaza
The City-owned building at 14th and Broadway fronting Frank H. Ogawa Plaza is now fully occupied with four new retail businesses, thanks to the City of Oakland Real Estate Services Division. Downtown Wine Merchants and Café Talavara offer delicious charcuterie and Latin American specialties to downtown workers at lunchtime, with Downtown Wine Merchants also offers a happy hour and dinner in their beautifully renovated space. Between them is Laurel Bookstore, a local business in the Laurel District that recently relocated to downtown, allowing them to expand and add a children’s room. The fourth new neighbor is Saint Harridan, a one-of-a-kind custom-fit suit retail shop featuring “a sleek masculine cut, re-engineered for women and transmen.” Saint Harridan experienced overwhelming success as a Pop Up Shop in August 2013 before opening their headquarters on the Plaza. For more information about leasing opportunities offered by the City of Oakland, please contact Real Estate Manager James Golde.
Cole’s Hardware Comes to Oakland; Safeway Expands
One of San Francisco’s most beloved neighborhood stores, Cole Hardware, took its first step outside the city with a new Oakland store next to the Rockridge BART station. A resident survey asking what should fill a formerly vacant furniture store put hardware on the top of the list. In other big College Avenue news, the re-opened Safeway includes a 24-hour grocery store with organic produce, a meat and seafood counter, pharmacy and an open plaza area with retail storefronts. Incoming tenants include local coffee chain Philz Coffee and Berkeley ice cream sandwich shop Cream. For more information, please contact Retail Specialist Keira Williams.
City Supports Growing Demand for Urban Agriculture
Oakland’s good weather and sustainability-loving population make it a leader in urban agriculture. To stay on top of the field, the city has made a comprehensive revision of its Urban Agriculture regulations to make growing and selling food easier. Oakland urban farmers include People’s Grocery, City Slicker Farms and Acta Non Verba. Oakland’s agriculture businesses also include the Institute for Urban Homesteading, which provides urban ag classes and tours, and Oakland based start-up and TechCrunch Disrupt winner Edyn, whose smart garden system will be available at Home Depot later this year. For more information, check out the Urban Farming section at the Oakland Business Assistance Center or contact Planning Manager Ed Manasse.
New Downtown Housing Moving Forward
Strada Investment Group is working with the City of Oakland to entitle the City Center “T-5/T-6” site at 12th Street and Clay for a two-phased mixed-use project. The first phase includes up to 262 units in a high-rise residential building designed by the renowned architectural firm Arquitectonica. It includes a public plaza on 12th Street that features pop-up retail, public art, green space and outdoor seating designed by Sitelab Urban Studio and Einwiller Kuehl, an Oakland-based landscape architecture firm. A second phase of the project proposes a hotel with ground floor retail, or additional housing and office uses. The hotel would include up to 250 rooms and nearly 8,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space. For more information, please contact Development Manager Patrick Lane.
Rendering provided by Strada Investment Group.