OAKLAND – Oakland is moving ahead with a sweeping makeover of one of its major downtown corridors. 14th street will be rebuilt all the way from Lake Merritt to 980. The goal is to approve safety by adding designated bike lanes, but some members of the community fear it may cost them their businesses.
“This is known as the black business corridor in the City of Oakland,” explained Geoffrey Peter, owner of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle. “The 14th St. corridor. And it’s chartered.”
This stretch of 14th Street has struggled through a lot lately; violent crime, ransacked businesses, and a growing number of vacant storefronts. And a number of business owners think another big challenge lies ahead.
“We’re just coming out of a pandemic,” said Oscar Edwards, owner of Complex Oakland. “A lot of us are just trying to survive. This will really impact businesses, especially heading into a recession .”
On Tuesday, Oakland City Council unanimously approved a dramatic overhaul. Protected bike lanes will be added, and four lanes will become two lanes. It’s a bittersweet win for bike advocates, after a father was killed on 14th just two weeks ago.
“We need to be thinking about how to prevent death on our streets,” said bike safety advocate Ben Kaufman. “And we’re not doing a good enough job right now.”
But some are still wary of the impact. Loss of parking is one concern.
“Our people that are in Antioch, or moved out to Richmond,” Peter said. “They come here to park and they can’t.”
The other is the scale of the job, and what a long construction project could mean for a struggling business corridor.
“I would like to add that we are all for biking in the communities,” Edwards said. “But I just don’t think it’s a good thing for 14th St..”
The council asked whether this project could be expedited with a ‘quick-build’ approach that would minimize impacts. The answer is that it may just be too large for that. The next step will be the selection of a contractor. Construction would start next year.
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