Connecting Downtown Oakland and Jack London
By Adrian Napolitano, Jack London Improvement District Intern and District Staff
Underpass improvement is a central goal of the Jack London Improvement District. Since its initiation, the District has provided cleaning and maintenance at all public right-of-way areas along and under the I-880, and hosted a number of workshops, walkthroughs, and surveys to understand community priorities for improvement.
Ever since Interstate 880 was constructed, it has created a physical and psychological barrier dividing Downtown Oakland and Jack London Square. As the City of Oakland develops the Downtown Oakland Specific Plan, the Freeway Access Plan is under development, there is now more momentum towards than ever before that Oakland improves the underpass. Broadway should be a clean, safe, and beautiful link between Downtown Oakland and Jack London Square. There should be active use and pedestrian and bicycle accessibility. Improving the underpass is also key to improving access to the waterfront.
We are not the first group to propose improvements to the Broadway underpass. In 1996, the City of Oakland developed a Public Art Master Plan in part to “bring light back to Broadway” and bridge the gap between the city and the waterfront at night. In 2000, Oakland spent $250,000 to construct the art at Broadway consisting of painted poles, lighting, and curved guardrails.
The Jack London Improvement District has already worked with the city to do basic repairs of the electrical system and install pigeon abatement systems at the underpass. Now, it is time come up with urban design solutions for the Broadway underpass- and the 6 other gateways between Jack London and Downtown Oakland including Oak, Madison, Jackson, Webster, Washington, and MLK.
In November 2015, we convened a charette to look closely at the Underpasses and invited the Downtown Specific Plan Team, Visit Oakland, City Staff, design professionals, and other community stakeholders, hosted at Gensler's offices in Oakland. With strong community support and funding from new developments in the district, a new vision for the underpass is not just a pie in the sky. In the next few months, we will be working with these stakeholders to develop a physical design solution for the Broadway underpass. Some preliminary ideas are pedestrian-oriented lighting and pop-up retail. Design suggestions from the community are welcome and encouraged.
In December of 2016, the City of Oakland released a Request for Proposals, or an RFP, to find the best talent in urban design, architecture, landscape architecture, lighting design, engineering, transportation planning, acoustics, public art and community engagement to reimagine a new future for this key area of Downtown Oakland and to develop new tools to address the many underpasses that challenge our neighborhoods citywide.
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