Every once in awhile in talking about stadiums, ballparks, etc., Zennie Abraham mentions that the Uptown site was the best choice of the various ones listed in the 2001 HOK report, though what Frank, John Nelson, Walter Allen and I found after reviewing the advantages of each,as per our roles on the ballpark analysis subcommittee of the Chamber in 2001, was that the Oakland Coliseum came out the best of all!
HOK looked at Howard, Laney, Brooklyn, Uptown, Coliseum, Army Base and Fremont, the latter thrown in I think to mollify an Alameda County Supervisor or two, but obviously a real difficult choice back then due to the difficulty of a viable BART connection. That’s why, in the end, it came down to just those two, Coli and Uptown: BART proximity. How in God’s Green Hell can anyone involved in Smart Growth even begin to think about locating something as dependent on public transit so far from BART? It just doesn’t make sense – probably the precise reason the incomparably logic-challenged Lew Wolff chose the Fremont site five miles away from the nearest station!
So that really left Uptown and the Oakland Coliseum, the latter being preferable then as now due to the added advantage of a retail cluster to unite the three stadia as perhaps the most compelling destination shopping center in the country – if only the politicians could somehow come to understand the dynamics of specialty retail agglomeration from the perspective of professionals in the industry.
Every so often, Oakland secures a bunch of rooms in Las Vegas or wherever the ICSC (International Council Of Shopping Centers) is having its annual monster schmoozefest and gets the Mayor and/or senior staff to fly up there and stroll around the convention hall, peering into booths and chatting up all the great opportunities that Oakland has to offer. The Head Schmoozer at each booth has a bunch of glossy brochures and other freebies that they hand out to everybody along with a story of how anxious the head guy at their company is to come to (your city here) and take advantage of the leakage or underserved retaildemand in the area.
As difficult as it is to believe, it’s real hard for some of our more ego-driven pols to understand during their first trip into this glittering wonderland of promises, half promises, and outright insincerity that just maybe that head guy has given out specific instructions to all his or her salespeople to tell ’em what they wanna hear, especially if they’re a bedazzled mayor wearing spats and look a lot like they’re a rube with an overawed entourage making their way down the carnival runway…
All this to say that there’s zero understanding of how these things can start to make real dollars, enough to pay back the new bonds or whatever other financial structure is used to justify the rehab funds. And there’s the rub: the city has no idea of whom they might pick as a consultant to help them through this part of the labyrinth; so they’ll end up depending on some whimsical choice – like Forest City Residential! – to advise about a downtown retail strategy, when in fact the retail expertise of Forest City’s western division is all concentrated over in the San Francisco Centre –
in direct opposition to anything in Oakland.
To be brief: everyone assumes they know all about retail because they’ve spent time shopping in big and little stores – totally unaware that they are being subtly manipulated by people whose life work has been the study of consumer habits. So that part of the equation is never factored in when choices are being made politically about location, location, location.