Harvest Hall “breaks ground” in Jack London Square

I guess I was a little bit ahead of schedule when I wrote about Jack London Square’s Harvest Hall last week. The project had its ceremonial groundbreaking yesterday, and is scheduled to open in early 2009.

Harvest Hall will apparently be the largest public market on the West Coast, which is neat and everything, but not necessarily all that impressive, since it only has what, two competitors for the title?

The marketplace “will have an everyday fresh market,” Falaschi said. “That means produce, bread, a delicatessen. It will resemble in Seattle, but not that pricey. It will be a market reflective of the community, offering what would be bought for everyday uses.”

Every quote I read about this sounds like such a fantasy. It will be just like the Ferry Building! And Pike Place market! Except not expensive! Everything will be local! And sustainable! With ethnic restaurants! And fresh fish! And a cooking school! And a DJ!

You know, I do hope that it works out for them. I don’t like to be such a naysayer. It would be wonderful to have a nice market down there, and I’m sure the people who live in all those condos would love to have a place to buy food.

You know, I love produce shopping as much as the next girl (probably more, actually), but I just worry that this project isn’t focused enough. It really feels like there’s just way too much going on here:

The building will be six stories, with the market, local produce, artisanal foods with meat and fish halls on the first floor. It will house ethnic bistros and fine dining on the second floor; culinary businesses on the third floor; and class A office space above.

There are a lot of other places to buy food in Oakland, and I wonder if what’s being proposed here will be exciting enough to draw people away from Market Hall, Piedmont Grocery, Farmer Joe’s, or Whole Foods. The proliferation of farmer’s markets in the area (I can think of 11 in Oakland alone, plus what, like 4 in Berkeley?) has already started to spread quality vendors thin and has caused some local farmers to abandon attempts to sell directly to the consumer. Are nearby condo residents enough to support this space? I suppose that if they can fill up a bunch of office space in the square, that would definitely help.

I hope everything I’ve said about it here turns out to be totally wrong. Come 2009, I’d love to find myself shopping near the waterfront, joining the crowds of people stuffing their fashionable reusable bags with plastic produce bags holding like two pieces of local, sustainable fruit.

dto510 and I have decided to delay our affordable housing discussion until next week, since there’s some other things we both really want to blog about this week, and we thought it would be too much of a distraction.

2 thoughts on “Harvest Hall “breaks ground” in Jack London Square

  1. Moschops

    The developers have sat on empty retail spaces for years and have no tenants for the spaces lined up – there retail folks are apparently just hopeless. Meanwhile Alameda is booming and Uptown is calling – like Seattle it seems “the other side of the freeway” may be a quiet and underutilized destination for years to come. As ever my greatest wish is to be proved wrong, good luck with that.

  2. dto510

    It’s very true that Jack London Square, despite hosting most of the condo development as a result of the 10k Plan, is not doing as well as Downtown proper. I would say that part of downtown’s success is attributable to the revitalization of once-thriving historic retail districts, like Old Oakland and Uptown. There is no historic district with nice facades to restore in the JLS area. Also, JLS is not a mixed-use as downtown, with fewer daytime employees, so that could be part of it too. Hopefully new office space will provide a broader mix of people that can anchor retail during the day.