I don’t want Downtown Italy, I want Downtown Oakley

Without a proper identity and uniqueness to a downtown community, it is hard to become a destination if you simply try to “copy” another community. The artificially created downtown will always play second fiddle to the original because that is what people ultimately want.

This is not meant to discredit the work of the City Council and staff who have worked hard on this plan since before 1999. This is a complex plan that I do believe they have done a fantastic job in pushing this forward. I know upon completion, the downtown area will be wonderful and I will enjoy it. This whole development is actually very exciting.

However, I say this with the upmost respect to the city council and staff, but everyone needs to knock off the comparison nonsense. We do not need to strive to be like others, but rather we should strive to be Oakley!

What makes Italy, Livermore, Lake Tahoe, Napa or Walnut Creek enjoyable is their uniqueness because they are not a carbon copy of somewhere else.  Rather than copy those places, Oakley should focus on creation of our own “draw” and uniqueness that will make it our destination.

In contrast, look what Antioch and Brentwood has done. Sure, it’s a great convenience due to local stores and restaurants, but there is nothing unique to it.  Hundreds of cities are similar. People want the atmosphere, not the location.

Right now, we do not even have an atmosphere due to the commuter mentality. The truth is we will not know the atmosphere until everything is built. I encourage the council to not poach a combination of other atmospheres in an attempt to artificially create what we ultimately become.  Only time can tell what the downtown environment will be.

If we are going to place businesses and food joints downtown, we should not be able to go into other local communities down the street for the same thing. We need tenets that are exclusive to Oakley. We need tenets that draw people to downtown because they can’t get these items/services anywhere else without a couple hour drive.

Carol Rios gave a beautiful description on Tuesday of how she envisions Downtown Oakley. She had a nice way with her words and painted a pretty picture in my head. She envisions a fountain-pond combination in the plaza where people can get ice cream or coffee. On a hot day, mothers can take their children’s shoes off and let them walk around in the pond and explained how it should be a central place for conversations.

I do agree with Ms. Rios on one thing, any investment in a fountain-pond combo should be a big investment to make it “something special” for the community.

As beautiful of description she gave, it comes with an Italy-Tuscany theme to it. Randy Pope, same thing. He wanted to take portions of Lake Tahoe (fire pit) and Livermore (parking spaces) and insert them here. This type of thinking is not wrong as people like to compare, but I’d rather look into Oakley’s history and use that to create the look and feel.

Maybe I am being too nitpicky on staff and council who have done an amazing job in turning a concept into a reality. What is done is done with the design; however, going forward I hope the council begins to focus on how great Oakley is and will be, rather than what others have done.

Ultimately, the solution is just a simple change in message when this topic occurs. I encourage the council to promote how great downtown will be, rather than comparing how great other communities are and we are bringing portions of them here.

Let’s be our own community without the influence of other communities guiding our decisions.

Downtown Update – Via City Council Meeting

At the last City Council meeting on November 8, the council provided an update to its Downtown Oakley Project and made several references to what other communities have done.

Via the staff report, the Downtown Oakley Project consists of the following key components:

  • Restaurant Development (Carpaccio and La Costa)
  • Retail space adjacent to Carpaccio’s
  • Downtown Civic Fountain and Plaza
  • Main Street and Norcross Ave. roadway development
  • Parking lot redevelopment and connection from the extension from Norcross Ave
  • Fagade and related improvements to the Oakley Plaza strip mall and the Centromart buildings

The City Council has already approved the exterior design of the Carpaccio and La Costa restaurants. The exterior of Carpaccio’s is a unique “modern Tuscan” design, meanwhile, La Costa is Mission style design building. The Centromart building uses some design elements derived from the Mission style architecture of the La Costa building.

This retail area can host either a large tenant, or two small tenants—apparently the city as identified potential

The Plaza is designed to be an attractive community gathering space that would include a landscaped gateway entry from Main Street and a large fountain. Around the fountain will be a mostly hardscaped area that incorporates some trees, other landscaping, benches, lighting, outdoor dining area, a possible fire pit component and a trellis leading to the northerly paseo.

An option to the firepit could be some sort of monument, statue or public art that would be meaningful for Oakley.

At the council meeting, a presentation was given highlighting the plans stated above—they say the buildings will have a “Tuscan” and “Mission” style theme to them that will complement one another.

Downtown Oakley Staff Report



About burkforoakley

I call it like I see it . I love my city, I love my community and I want what is best for the people around me. Do the right thing, I will support you. Do the wrong thing, I will oppose you!
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