The Oxford Street parklet. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
The Oxford Street parklet officially opens at 5 p.m. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Berkeley’s third parklet, and downtown’s first, will officially open at 5 p.m. today. The outdoor seating area covers 2130 to 2136 Oxford Street in front of Sunny Side Café, East Bay Spice Company, Cinnaholic and Suya African-Caribbean Grill.

The Oxford Street parklet’s design was inspired by the west entrance to UC Berkeley, which is almost directly across the street. It has a concrete wall inspired by the classical buildings on campus adorned with metal cutouts of a Cal Bear, the Bay Bridge and the San Francisco skyline. “Our communal vision was to create a similar aesthetic, that of ornate cement and metalwork with an old world field,” Joel DiGiorgio, co-founder of Farm League Design and Management Group, told Nosh in an email. Farm League is the management company behind East Bay Spice Company.

The project, DiGiorgio said, was a group effort amongst all those involved; however, DiGiorgio gives much of the credit for the parklet to its designer, Carl Sciortino Construction, which also managed the fabrication. “This parklet [is] a work of art that we hope the entire Berkeley community will appreciate and enjoy on a daily basis,” wrote DiGiorgio.

On Wednesday, hours before the parklet was scheduled to open, Mark Short and his wife Shellie, whose son owns Carl Sciortino Construction, were on site finishing the final details.

A golden bear on the Oxford Street parklet. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
The Cal bear, as depicted on the new Oxford Street parklet. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
The Cal bear, as depicted on the new Oxford Street parklet. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

While the parklet sits across from a number of restaurants, it is open to the public.

“Everybody can use it but we want to keep it clean and nicely done,” said Soheyl Modarressi, the president of Oxford Development, which owns Oxford Center. “Berkeley deserves the best. We are committed to downtown.”

The first Berkeley parklet opened in front of the Cheese Board Collective; a second parklet opened in front of Saul’s Delicatessen last fall. A South Berkeley parklet has also been proposed alongside Alchemy Collective Café on Ellis Street and Alcatraz Avenue. And another parklet was in the works for the space in front of Philz Coffee and Guerrilla Café, but it has so far stalled. All are part of a pilot program run by the city, inspired by initiatives in San Francisco and Oakland, that allows for the creation of 10 parcels in Berkeley’s commercial districts.

Read more about the story of Berkeley’s parklets.

Getting parklets in the city has proved arduous partly because it has required developing a new permiting system, partly because of concerns over reduced parking, and partly due to budget. Heather Hensley, Executive Director of the North Shattuck Association, estimated that the North Berkeley parklets at Saul’s and The Cheese Board each cost between $20,000 and $25,000.

The Oxford Street parklet. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
The new parklet spans four restaurants on Oxford Street. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
The new parklet spans four restaurants on Oxford Street. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Like Berkeley’s other parklets, the Oxford Street parklet is a public space, so none of the restaurants will be able to serve food directly to customers seated at the spot. However, diners can bring take-out food and non-alcoholic beverages to the parklet as they please.

A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held at 5 p.m. today in front of the parklet, complete with samba music and dancing from Batalá. Refreshments will be provided by all four restaurants served by the parklet.

Community helps plan new South Berkeley parklet (2.9.16)
Berkeley’s newest parklet opens outside Saul’s Deli
Berkeley’s first parklet opens in the Gourmet Ghetto (09.12.14)
Berkeley’s first two parklets coming this fall (06.19.14)
Berkeley parklets stir up excitment, apprehension (07.08.2014)
Berkeley officials get closer to public “parklet” policy (06.10.13)
North Berkeley merchants want parklets for the people
Trees and seating focus for Solano Avenue improvements (08.16.12)
Food takes to the streets, literally, on Park(ing) Day (09.17.10)

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Kate Williams

Kate Williams has been writing about food since 2009. After spending two years developing recipes for cookbooks at America’s Test Kitchen, she moved to Berkeley and began work as a freelance writer and...