SUCCESSFUL RETAIL IN OAKLAND
Where is the successful retail in Oakland? College Avenue, Montclair Village, Piedmont Avenue, Fruitvale and MacArthur. What do these neighborhood retail areas have in common?
The streets are small enough and the stores on each side are close enough that a shopper strolling on one side can see the store fronts and even some of the window displays across the street, and if the shopper sees something that attracts his or her fancy, there is little enough traffic and cross walks are close enough that he can jaywalk or cross at a cross walk near enough that the retailer across the street does not lose this shopper.
The shopping mall developers know that is successful retail. Shopping malls work hard to imitate successful retail streets. Shoppers stroll down one side of the mall, but they can see the shops on the other side and switch sides at will.
Contrast Broadway. In the 1960's the traffic engineers sharpened their sliderules, tore out the Key System tracks, eliminated the parking, and created a traffic artery to pump the maximum number of cars up and down the street. There was no concern for making an attractive retail environment and it shows. Broadway is a wasteland.
How do we fix Broadway? Shrink it. Use diagonal parking like on Grand Avenue and Lakeshore to make store more accessible to parking. One way retail streets can be more convenient than malls is by letting a shopper park right in front of their target shop or at least nearby. Through traffic can be directed to Franklin one way and Webster the other. If we are not trying to maximize the car flow through Broadway, maybe mid- block cross-walks could be added to encourage shopping both sides of the street.
Add signs. Signs projecting from the buildings out over the sidewalk will bring the apparent front of the buildings closer to the street and shrink apparent breadth of the street.
Lighted retail signs add excitement and color as well as retail info and attraction. Signs can be kept away from intersections so the cross-streets are not signed and only Broadway has the lighted, colorful signs. Giving retailers a free hand with signs will be highly attractive to retailers and will allow some innovation and excitement.
Another possibility might be to use a center lane for a pedestrian walkway with some retail carts or street vendors, provided care is taken to keep from competing with rent paying retailers on the street. Street vendors should be limited to those that will add excitement, interest and retail traffic.
Adding both a center pedestrian walkway and diagonal parking is probably not possible. Some more thought and design will need to go into this trade-off. Some combination of these four ideas: shrink Broadway, add curbside parking, add signs and possibly a center pedestrian walkway, should revitalize Broadway as an exciting retail corridor capable of competing with the malls.