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Park Street pot o’ gold?

Submitted by on 1, March 13, 2008 – 7:35 amNo Comment

Park Street is becoming quite the shopping and dining hotspot, with a growing array of boutiques and shops and a bevy of new restaurants (including Havana and Bagan, an outpost of San Francisco’s famed Burma Superstar). So can the city strike some gold at the end of this rainbow?

This Saturday, the city is hosting a “community visioning” charrette for the rest of Park Street north of Lincoln, formerly known as Auto Row (and better known now perhaps as the rest of Park’s ugly stepsister). At the charrette, people will talk about what they’d like to see in the area and how they’d like it to look as part of the city’s efforts to create a strategic plan for the area.

A recent community survey conducted by the city (it’s in this city staff report on hiring a consultant to craft a strategic plan for the area) found that people are interested in seeing a mix of retail, office and housing.

The auto dealerships were once the city’s primary source of tax revenue for its general fund, but they are disappearing: Cavanaugh Motors is gone, and Toyota of Alameda is expected to move to Oakland sometime next year. A reinvigorated Alameda Towne Center has provided a boost to the city’s finances, Marc Albert recently reported in the Sun; but it’s not enough to fill a projected $4 million budget hole. Neither is Alamedans‘ current in-town spending, which generates just $74 a person in sales taxes – half the county average.

The city’s downtown development plan in 2000 sought to put new retail into the old auto sites as they became available, and they’ve had a bit of success: The former Ford dealership was filled by the Marketplace. The area also boasts some other recent development, including Perforce Software and a hidden gem, the Little House Café on Blanding Avenue. And plans may be afoot to redevelop the former Cavanaugh Motors site.

But for now, the area’s most prominent features include an array of gas and service stations, a shopping strip in desperate need of a facelift and the Marketplace’s decidedly non-revenue generating overflow lot.

The charrette is part of the city’s effort to develop a strategic plan for the area, which is expected to be completed by this summer. It’s being held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Alameda Free Library, 1550 Oak Street, in Stafford Meeting Rooms A and B. For more information, call Eric Fonstein, development manager, at 749-5923.

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