Celebration of Uptown District's revival

June 19, 2009 12:03:42 AM PDT
In Oakland, a once rundown area considered a blight on the city's landscape has made a comeback. The Uptown District is now an emerging, vibrant section of town, focused around the Fox Theatre.

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Thursday, the city celebrated Uptown's revival and new energy.

Just a few years ago the area was in decay, almost deserted, but that has all changed. In came $120 million in redevelopment money and $500 million from private capital; 665 new apartments were built.

When the Fox Theatre reopened it signified the neighborhood was alive again.

"Most of the Fox shows have been sold out, the restaurants are doing brisk business. In fact, all of them have been written up in regional and national publications," said Oakland marketing director Samee Roberts.

Flora is a restaurant in a tile-covered building that used to be a flower market. The owner says he saw the potential of the neighborhood. They have taken old buildings and made them appear fresh again.

Down the street, Cafe Van Kleef has a lived-in look. It is a place that has seen change come to this street.

"Every place that's around here, there's all kinds of different people hanging out, whether it be musicians, writers, artists, everyone's here," said Cafe Von Klee manager Eric Tonningsen. "More often than not there's businessmen hanging out with 'skeezy' artists, talking the same old stuff."

There are thriving art galleries. Artists take part in the show with installations right on the street.

"This is fantastic. We get to put our art in the street. That doesn't happen very often. I don't remember that ever happening," said artist Michael Christian. "I get to travel four miles to install my artwork in the street so people can see it. That's fantastic."

The newest showplace is The Den at the Fox, right in the theatre building. It is jammed at night -- a signal that people want to come there and are spending money.

"Somehow we have recession-proof amenities here in Oakland," said Roberts.

Cause for an official celebration of the launch of Uptown's arts and entertainment district.

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