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Old Oakland ... lively again with shops, galleries, restaurants.

Old Oakland . . . lively again with shops, galleries, restaurants Built to be the grand finale of westward journeys on the new transcontinental railroad, elegant hotels and other proud Victorians in the vicinity of Ninth and Broadway in Oakland once bustled with the activity of well-to-do visitors and residents. But the turn of the century found Oakland's commercial center shifting northward, beginning the long downward slide of so-called Victorian Row.

Pawn shops and liquor stores were about all that remained in the neglected neighborhood when architect Glenn Storek first saw it in the early 1960s. Yet the recognized the potential of the surprisingly intact collection of historic structures, and with his brother Richard and partner Steve Lowe, began to purchase buildings about 10 years later. In 1978, the three entered into an agreement with the City of Oakland to restore two square blocks as a historic district called Old Oakland, now listed on the National Register.

Storek & Storek's extensive structural reinforcing of the mostly brick buildings paid off last fall, when the October 17 earthquake rumbled through the Bay Area. While many other older buildings in downtown Oakland were badly damaged by the quake, Old Oakland came through virtually unscathed.

Particularly pleased were several new tenants, some still moving in at the time. (One art gallery held its grand opening just four days after the quake.) The new businesses offer some compelling reasons to visit the district--even if you're not an architectural historian.

Bookstores, galleries, Ethiopian dining

Bay Bridge Books (901 Broadway) has appropriately taken up residence in a building that housed northern California's first major bookstore a century ago. The large store's wide selection of new books invites much browsing. The owners (all alumni of Berkeley's outstanding Black Oak Books) have put together a winter-spring schedule of author lectures and other literary events; call (415)835-5845 for names and dates. Open 10 to 9 daily (until 8 Sundays).

Cassandra Kersting Gallery (471 Ninth Street), in the 1868-vintage Gladstone Building, is Kersting's second gallery; she opened her first 16 years ago in Sausalito. Kersting plans to use the Oakland gallery to show the work of emerging artists, with an emphasis on local talent. On display this month are the paintings and sculpture of four Polish artists who have recently emigrated to the Bay Area. Open 10 to 5 Mondays through Saturdays.

Fana Ethiopian Restaurant (464 Eighth Street) adds an exotic touch to the 1874 Leimert Building. Spicy curries and other traditional Ethiopian dishes, usually served family-style, are scooped up with pieces of spongy injera bread. Open daily from 11:30 to 2:30 for lunch, 6 to 10 for dinner. For reservations, call 271-0969.

Pacific Coast Brewing Company (906 Washington Street), Oakland's first brew pub since Prohibition, was also Old Oakland's first retail tenant, opening over a year ago in the 1876 Arlington Building. You can wash down a sausage sandwich or smoke trout salad with one of four types of draft beer brewed on the premises. Open 11:30 to 11 Mondays through Thursdays, until 1 A.M. Fridays and Saturdays, and noon to 8 Sundays. Recently, opened in the Arlington Building is the Arlington Arcade (484 (Ninth Street), a clothing and accessories collective representing East Bay designers. And two prominent East Bay organizations open galleries in the district this month: California College of Arts and Crafts (485 Ninth Street) and ProArts (461).

Big plans for huge market

Across Washington Street from the other Old Oakland buildings, Storek & Storek is renovating the landmark, city block-size Swan's Market building. (Renowned chef Alice Waters is also a partner in the project.) Plans are to reopen it this summer as the Central Freemarket, selling foods of all kinds.
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Date:Feb 1, 1990
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