Word on Webster: For a prosperous Webster Street
By Steve Gerstle
How to best bring prosperity to Webster Street? We posed this question to a number of shopkeepers in the area and then asked Jennifer Ott, deputy city manager for development services and Kathy Moehring, the outgoing executive director of the West Alameda Business Association, to comment on what the merchants had to say as the street experiences some major losses – but also in the wake of a major, city-sponsored visioning process.
Most of the merchants we spoke with see the need for a high-value, moderately priced restaurant. One says that Neptune Plaza, located at the end of Webster Street, would be a good location due to the availability of free parking. Other recommendations include a Peet’s Coffee and a grocery. One shopkeeper would like a coordinated opening of multiple stores to show that Webster Street has arrived. A local bartender says that the development of the former Navy base will play a key role in revitalizing Webster Street.
A major concern shared by many merchants is the difficulty in obtaining small business loans. While they are concerned about the 20-plus vacancies on Webster, most seem optimistic about the future of Webster Street. However, they worry whether or not their own businesses will be a part of that future.
Moehring agrees with many of the merchants’ comments and says that we need to create a unique commercial area. She says that this will take time and require the cooperation of landlords as well as business people who are willing to innovate.
Ott says that while times are tough, the city believes that in the long term Webster Street will do better. Development at the former base, including the possible opening of a second Lawrence Berkeley Lab campus, would bring more business to the area. Attractive lease rates on Webster Street right now are an incentive to start a new business.
Ott says that Webster Street already has restaurants such as East Ocean and Otaez that attract customers from other communities. She believes that when Café Jolie opens it will also attract customers from off the Island. In the short term, the city’s façade improvement grants have helped to improve the look of the street. In addition, the city is making an effort to streamline procedures for merchants seeking to open a new business or improve an existing one.
The Frog & Fiddle at 1544 Webster Street now has live music. Please call 522-3764 for dates and times.
Work has begun again on Café Jolie on the corner of Webster and Santa Clara. The café will include an outdoor seating area.
An attractive fence has been placed around the property at the southwest corner of Webster and Pacific. The site, when developed, is expected to have four shops at ground level and two apartments above.
Curves has moved from Webster Street to Blanding Avenue.
The Alameda Police Department’s Traffic Unit was out in force on Wednesday, January 26 at the intersection of Webster and Atlantic. Many motorists were pulled over for violations.