Commenter Owen asked for my opinion on Harvest Hall. I haven’t written about it before because, well, I’m not quite sure what to say about it.
I thought about writing something a while back when Robert Gammon had that paranoid article about it in the Express. (The San Francisco Business Times ran a much more sane story about Harvest Hall the same week.)
Anyway, mostly I think the whole concept of Harvest Hall is kind of stupid. Scaling back the food component to two stories makes a lot of sense to me – I was never clear how exactly they expected to fill that space up. Maybe they should think about scaling it down to just one. This is sort of a pet peeve of mine. I’m not that big a fan of the Ferry Building to begin with (not that I’m against it – I just don’t personally like going there), but I understand that it on its own is very successful. What I don’t understand is why people seem to think that just because one gourmet food hall flourishes in the heart of a tourist mecca that means we can just stick replicas all over the damn place and have them be successful. Random people keep telling me about how we should have the Ferry Building in the bottom of Broadway Grand. Ellis Partners wants to put one in JLS. Alex Gronke thinks we should use the Kaiser Convention Center for one. Naomi Schiff wants thinks we can fill up the Ninth Avenue Terminal that way.
It’s like – wake up, people! Oakland is not getting its own Tsar Nicoulai anytime in the forseeable future! And no matter what Renato Sardo says, I expect the end product will look more like Boston’s monumentally lame and depressing Quincy Market than anything else.
Gee, I’m just a bundle of optimism this morning, aren’t I?
Having said all that, I do think that JLS will be very well served by more office space, so that aspect of the project makes me happy. And that building that El Torito was in looks great since they removed that ugly old facade! Oh, and if they could find a way to make a bowling alley or an arcade work somewhere in there, I will take back every mean thing I’ve ever said about it. (That goes for pretty much all projects in Oakland.)
Since I’m talking about it anyway, here are my biggest issues with the Express story:
Some current and former merchants believe Falaschi and Ellis have deliberately run off the businesses in an effort to transform the square from a middle-class, family-oriented destination to a haven for the well-to-do.
Huh? Maybe that’s what JLS was like at some point in the past, but it certainly doesn’t even resemble what the square looked like when I moved here, which was well before Falaschi and Ellis’s purchase. The storefronts in the Jack London look to me now almost exactly as they did then (minus a few chains), mostly retail spaces and a couple of restaurants.
But gentrifying a public waterfront would effectively put it off-limits to a significant number of people who simply can’t afford upscale eateries. And that raises serious questions. For starters, shouldn’t Jack London Square be accessible to all? Where will low- and middle-income families, the very people who packed the square every Friday and Saturday night for years, go to eat or spend an evening?
Bullshit. Okay, TGI Fridays is first and foremost a fern bar. That place is not about being affordable to or good for “low-income” families. Their business model is based on selling massive quantities of sugar saturated frozen drinks for huge mark-ups to people who probably shouldn’t be consuming alcohol in the first place. And it is far from cheap. Entree prices hover between $12 and $24, virtually identical to prices at the type of “upscale eateries” popping up around Oakland that Gammon and Birdsall are so darn afraid of. (TGI Fridays does not attach prices to their online menu – perhaps prices vary in different markets? I don’t even know where one is, so I called my sister in Texas and had her drive to a Fridays and read me the menu, if anyone’s wondering where those figures came from.) And I hardly see how replacing vacant space with retail, whether or not anyone can afford it, could be viewed by a reasonable person as putting the area “off-limits.”