This week I had the pleasure of visiting Fruitvale Village, a transit-oriented development at a BART station in Oakland, California. I was part of a group that was given a “behind the scenes” tour of the complex by Jeff Pace. Mr. Pace is the Vice President of Finance & Business Operations at the Unity Council, developers of the site. Here are some interesting facts about Fruitvale Village:
-A 257,000 square foot “transit village” built on former BART parking lots.
-An active, retail-lined connector between the BART station and the neighborhood's primary retail artery. This Pedestrian Street and plaza also serve as a major community-gathering place.
-Forty-seven units of mixed-income housing.
-114,000 square feet of community services (clinic, library, senior center) and office space (including the Unity Council's headquarters).
-40,000 square feet of neighborhood retail (shops and restaurants).
-150 car parking garage within the buildings (plus a large parking structure for BART).
The village also has some very commendable project goals:
-To strengthen existing community institutions and catalyze neighborhood revitalization — physically, economically and socially.
-To reduce poverty, build assets, and contribute to the local economy — by providing a stable source of jobs and income.
-To encourage and leverage public and private investment.
-To enhance choices for neighborhood residents, including services and retail choices.
-To provide high quality, affordable housing.
-To improve the perception and reality of safety.
-To beautify a blighted area.
-To increase BART ridership and reduce traffic and pollution.
-To be sustainable and environmentally sound.
The village also has a day care center (with adorable kids running around – pictured below) and a bike station. The bike station allows bikers to store their bikes temporarily or over night and also offers basic services and repairs.
In my opinion, the village was very impressive. Some in my group said it felt like Disneyland. I agree in a sense, but I can only imagine how bad the existing neighborhood was before the improvements came in. Some of the surrounding areas were still very blighted.
Some in the group also pointed out how they felt it was unsuccessful because the occupancy rate was only around 50% at the complex. The developers are very particular about who they let into the development and they want to provide places with beneficial services to the community. There were no chain shops and restaurants that you normally see in this type of development. The main street that the development connected to was THRIVING with 100% occupancy, but apparently it was not as successful before this development opened up and a semi road-diet was performed on the street. Despite being located in a high-poverty and largely Latino community, the Fruitvale neighborhood is the second-highest tax generating district in all of Oakland. And the pedestrian traffic was very heavy, even in mid-afternoon. So, considering these factors, I feel that the development is pretty successful considering it has only been open a year. Sometimes small doses of gentrification are needed to turn around a struggling area.
CoolTown Studios also had a great post on Fruitvale Village.
I have been in the San Francisco Bay Area all week on business (I know, seems so harsh!) and have taken a lot of photos. I will post them when I return from Yosemite. I also got to take in a San Francisco Giants victory over the Florida Marlins. I was seated right behind Barry Bonds (see the photo). Jason Schmidt pitched a complete game and set a new Giants team record with 16 strikeouts. Plus, he struck out the side in the ninth with runners on second and third! But don’t worry Chicagoans, I am still a die-hard White Sox fan.