In spite of an ongoing, grim economic downturn felt nationally, the city of Oakland continues to enjoy a beatification, resurrection and transformation which has turned a rather neglected, desolate place into a spectacularly cleaved jewel in the Pacific Northwest.
Architecture and public art are definitely playing a significant role in the emerging identity of Oakland. Take, for instance, a modernist-revival building and plaza a stone's throw from Lake Merritt and just a few blocks from Oakland's downtown Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. The sublimely designed Cathedral Christ of the Light, built by world-renowned firm SOM Architects, is but one of many fine examples in the city's newly refined, designer-built architectural environment. There's also a number of noteworthy restoration projects that have taken place, including the preservation of two historic theatres, the Fox and the Paramount, both of which were erected during the heyday of grand Hollywood musical productions.
A fully restored Paramount theater welcomes guest for an evening out on Broadway Street. (Photo: Max Eternity)
"An opulent and exotic mix of terra cotta tiles, dizzyingly detailed paintings and golden deities, reminiscent of a Brahmin Temple" is how the Fox is described on its website, though it must be stated that the Paramount is equally as captivating. Both theatres have their original, spectacularly lit marquees, and both have all the expected Art Deco design accoutrements, paying homage to one of the most pronounced commercial architectural styles during that era - 1928 for the Fox and 1931 for the Paramount.
Beautiful lofts, condominiums and luxury apartment buildings are in no shortage, either. The Uptown, located a couple of blocks away from the Paramount, is one of the many newly developed properties, being especially of note as it is Oakland's first LEED certified residential building. The Pacific Cannery Lofts on Frontage Street in West Oakland is another touted residential project. That property is "a community of 163 live-work lofts, flats, & townhomes," with easy access to Emeryville, a small, vibrant city just North of Oakland that has also seen a number of big renewal projects in recent years.
Additionally, for the past decade, Oaklanders have looked forward to the Oakland Art & Soul festival. Once a year, the showcases the city's homegrown musical talent, but on a daily basis, good eats, art and entertainment are always close at hand. VO's, located at 59 Grand Avenue, is a hip Vietnamese restaurant with a robust clientele. Not far away from VO's is Luka's, a restaurant and bar with 16 beers on tap and a nice listing of specialty drinks, plus a menu inspired by the brasseries of France and Belgium. The restaurant also features rotating art exhibitions.
Opportunities for an enjoyable urban experience are virtually everywhere, and the Meet Downtown Oakland website - providing an abundant listing of restaurants and other venues, all within a one-mile radius of Oakland's beautifully preserved City Hall - is a smart place to start gathering information about some of the varied options.
All this change and progress is a cumulative effect to be taken in and savored. It also demonstrates that by any measure, whether in terms of residential options, public transportation choices or venues for the arts and entertainment, Oakland is a city on the rise, rightfully tooting its own horn of inner city success.