The new homeowners are breathing life into what had been a no man's land wedged between the Prescott (Oakland Point) neighborhood of West Oakland and Interstate 880, an area that until recently was better known as a repository for truck parking and illegal dumping. They are walking their pets around the neighborhood and establishing Neighborhood Watch groups and e-mail communities to cut down on crime.
Small steps, sure, but it's only the beginning, area residents say.
A redevelopment plan that Oakland city leaders approved four years ago calls for as many as 1,500 new homes — collectively called the Central Station project — to replace 26 dusty acres surrounding a restored Southern Pacific train depot. The depot has been shuttered since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
The busts in housing and banking dogged sales in the 163-unit Pacific Cannery Lofts, one of the first of the developments to get under way.
But things have loosened up in recent months: Fifty-seven units, nearly all in the historic Pacific Coast Cannery building, have been sold and 21 have closed escrow, said Gail Stark, sales director. Another 15 townhouses will go on sale this weekend, she said.
... the 130-unit Zephyr (Gate) Creek development filling in the blocks between 12th and 14th streets is constructed in stages as units are sold. People move in as soon as their townhouses are finished, so there are no empty buildings, said Sandy Richert, sales manager for Pulte Homes. So far 74 homes have been built and sold; 63 of those have closed escrow and the new owners have moved in.
David Ghadimi, 47, a union electrician and jack of many trades who was laid off in September after finishing work on the California Academy of Sciences building in Golden Gate Park, is also a pioneer of sorts.
He moved to an industrial loft across the street from Central Station four years ago and decided recently to build a cafe. Galatea Café opened six weeks ago, filled with colorful art created by his girlfriend and offering free Wi-Fi and a range of coffees, smoothies, and breakfast and lunch fare. There is a chessboard on one of the tables and Ghadimi, who is also a massage therapist, plans to open a yoga studio upstairs.
'Crime really went down'
Ghadimi said he has noticed a big change in the neighborhood since the vacant blocks have been filled in with new homes and new residents.
Ghadimi attributed that drop partly to police responding sooner to 911 calls, but the strength in numbers fueled by new residents moving to the area helped, too.
Several developments will shape the Central Station project. In addition to the Pacific Cannery Lofts and Zephyr Gate townhouses, the 99-unit Iron Horse affordable rental complex should open this fall. However, construction has been delayed on a large market-rate apartment complex on a key block between 14th and 16th streets, closest to the old train station.
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