Oxbow Public Market. Photo Scott Beale
Oxbow Public Market: its developer plans to open a similar food market in Oakland’s Jack London Square. Photo Scott Beale
Oxbow Public Market: its developer plans to open a similar food market in Oakland’s Jack London Square. Photo Scott Beale

San Francisco has the Ferry Building. Napa has the Oxbow Public Market. And, come fall of 2016, Oakland should have Water Street Market, a place of local food purveyors in Jack London Square.

Steve Carlin, CEO of the Carlin Company, who designed both the Ferry Building Marketplace as well as Oxbow Market, has recently come on board to oversee the development of the new marketplace.

The intention for the waterfront development had always been to install a market of local, sustainable producers inside the mixed-use building on the South End of the square, next to the Daniel Patterson restaurant Haven. However the downturn in the economy forced the developers to halt the project and the space has stood vacant for many years.

“When we finished the building in 2009, it was a challenging moment in the economy so we weren’t able to implement the market at that time,” said Will Miller, a partner at the San Francisco-based Ellis Partners Inc. “But a lot has happened since then.”

At the end of 2010, Ellis joined up with Divco West to partner in the project, and they patiently waited for the right tenants for each space.

Miller said that the office space in the square, as well as in the four floors of that building, is now 100% leased, and four restaurants (Jack’s Oyster Bar and Fish House, Forge Pizza, Haven, and Lungomare) have come on the scene since Bocanova first opened its doors there in 2009. Most recently, the Plank bowling alley, beer garden and restaurant in the old Barnes and Noble space opened in the fall of last year.

“We’ve been ‘committedly’ patient, to the right uses and right long-term solution for each of the respective spaces,” Miller said. “For Plank, we didn’t feel it was the right thing until they came along.” A new residential development is also in the works nearby, he said.

The success of the Eat Real festival at Jack London Square bodes well for a new public marketplace, says its developer. Photo: Allan Chatto

Miller said the popularity of the Eat Real Festival for several years running is “a real indication that there’s enthusiasm for innovative and sustainable food in Oakland. And while every day can’t be a festival with 150,000 people on a weekend there, it’s a good indicator that that draw is there.”

The size of the space is much closer to Oxbow than the Ferry Building (JLS is 30,000 square feet, while Oxbow is 33,000 and the Ferry Building is closer to 100,000). But the plan is to build out the first floor at first. Then a second phase will see the second floor built out as well, meaning that, at full capacity, there is 60,000 square feet of space.

Carlin was the right man for the job, Miller said, because “his forte is working with different food communities under one roof. We see this as fulfilling our original vision, but he’s a great resource to do this transaction, because it’s what he does. His is a sub-specialty in which it would be hard to find a better expert.”

And while the market will feature both raw products as well as cooked, “We’re not picking up Oxbow and placing it in Oakland, we’ll put a local twist on it,” said Miller.

“The premise is the same,” said Carlin. “It’s an amalgam of owner-operated local retail businesses and restaurants, that will feature and highlight sustainable and organic products.”

Oxbow currently houses produce and grocery vendors, wine, cheese and olive oil sellers, Kara’s Cupcakes, Hog Island Oyster Bar, The Fatted Calf, Ritual Coffee Roasters, as well as Gott’s Roadside — among others.

But Carlin said the two existing markets each has its own personality, and the Oakland one will be no exception. While he wouldn’t say which East Bay purveyors would be tenants, he did say that “we’re a bit overwhelmed with what appears to be a high level of interest,” adding “the local community is the driving force that makes these markets successful. It’s important to build it properly and design it so it works, and have the right mix of tenants, but at the end of the day, when the local community supports it, it becomes part of the fabric of the local community.”

The same developer who created San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace aims to open Water Street Market in Oakland. Photo: Wally Gobetz
The same developer who created San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace aims to open Water Street Market in Oakland. Photo: Wally Gobetz

There will also be a garden adjacent, in which the restaurants within the market will be able to grow some of the food they serve.

“We have a plot of land that is available for a garden and it would be pretty substantial,” said Carlin. He explained how when Napa wine and food education center Copia closed seven years ago, the Oxbow Public Market tenants asked if they could cultivate its garden for their own use.

“While it doesn’t provide all the produce, it does highlight certain things which are extremely seasonal, and we’ll do something close to that,” said Carlin.

This is not new stuff,” Carlin concluded. “The beauty of food is that we’re going backwards in time, looking at the way things used to be, from where our food is sourced and with smaller farms feeding communities. This market will have its own look and feel, but will be very consistent with what we think its location and community and Oakland and the East Bay in general, want.”

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Alix Wall is an Oakland-based freelance writer. She is contributing editor of J., The Jewish News of Northern California, for which she has a food column and writes other features. In addition to Berkeleyside’s...