Grrr. Oakland Tribune reporter Angela Woodall’s done it again: wrote another completely wrongheaded account of my Oakland. The first time it was a Twitter tweet that implied there was corruption at the Oakland Coliseum (she was correct), only to completely back away from the accusation when this blogger pointed to it.
This time, the second time, Woodall wrote an account about the stretch of Oakland’s Broadway that starts at 14th and goes up to West Grand. She painted it as a part of Oakland that doesn’t have a lot going on. But Woodall, who should know better, completely missed Telegraph Avenue, just one left turn away and within view and walking distance.
Anyone who knows Oakland is fully aware of the new shops and eateries that have opened on Telegraph over the five years she claims to have been studying Broadway: Flora, Dogwood Bar, Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe, are all new, and join Cafe Van Kleef and other businesses to form Oakland’s new entertainment spine in the downtown.
What Woodall doesn’t get is that Oakland planners and economic development types have always looked at Telegraph and Broadway as one unit, not separate. Yes, Broadway needs more development, but where we’ve went wrong is in not encouraging the right development the market pushed. Like Sega GameWorks in the 1990s.
This blogger was the Economic Advisor To Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris at the time in 1997. A chance conversation with a Mr. Steve Ruzac (if memory serves on the spelling) at San Francisco’s Royal Exchange Bar (the best business deals are done at bars or on airplanes) revealed that he represented the team looking for locations for a an urban entertainment concept called Sega GameWorks. To make a long story short, my work in getting Steve to Oakland was rejected by my boss, Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris. That was one time I wanted to quit. Urban entertainment centers combine movies theaters and gaming centers to provide a place for the key 18 to 30 demographic to be at, and they’re great job generators.
Here’s the Las Vegas version, open today:
Rather than focus on GameWorks, Mayor Harris and Interim City Manager Kofi Bonner had another developer they were talking to – but that never came to fruition, whereas Sega GameWorks was interested in coming to Oakland.
Now, we have the Fox Theater as the urban entertainment destination – no place for games. All of the businesses mentioned above have grown around the Fox. The same dynamic would have happened if Sega GameWorks was here and on Broadway.
Later, Mayor Harris was good enough to admit he made a mistake; Sega GameWorks should have been in Oakland. But that’s one reason why Telegraph is the place to be in Downtown Oakland, and Broadway is not – at least not now.
Point is, that’s the correct story of Downtown Oakland; not the one Woodall provided.