June Downtown of the Month: The Downtown Oakland Association and Lake Merritt/Uptown District Association

Downtown Jacksonville

About the Downtown Oakland Association and Lake Merritt/Uptown District Associaiton

The Downtown Oakland Association and Lake Merritt/Uptown District Association, two jointly managed Community Benefit Districts (CBDs), include within their boundaries Oakland’s historic downtown and central business corridor.

One of the district’s most valuable assets is its six-day-a-week Ambassador Program. The Ambassador Program consists of both Hospitality and Maintenance Ambassadors whose duties include: providing pedestrian and motorist assistance and way-finding, umbrella escorts, graffiti and vandalism cleanup, daily maintenance of sidewalks and gutters, removal of abandoned news racks and parking meters, district landscaping and more. Their presence on the streets, in their brightly colored orange and blue shirts, welcomes visitors and assists residents and local employees alike. The Ambassadors also reward good deeds while helping to promote local businesses by passing out ‘Ambassador Cards’ to Good Samaritans. These gift cards are preloaded with a $2 credit that can be spent at local participating businesses. They can also be redeemed for other perks, such as a $100 credit for dental work from Rotunda Dental, a co-sponsor of the program along with Oakland Grown.

In 2011, the districts restored the antique art deco clock on the corner of 17th and Broadway. This project kicked off a series of beautification projects in the districts. Banners and hanging flower baskets can be seen on the streets promoting the districts as a great place to ‘invest, build, prosper and live happy’. Planter boxes have been installed to enhance BART station entrances. In addition, the districts have been instrumental in assisting the area with efficient litter removal services by providing 11 solar-powered BigBelly Trash Compactors on high traffic street corners. These ‘BigBellys’ hold more trash than standard garbage cans and offer appropriate recycling options. The BigBellys also utilize technology that digitally alerts the districts when the trash compactor needs to be emptied, saving precious time and resources.


WalkScore.com has named Downtown Oakland, a geographical area from 10th Street to Grand Avenue along Broadway that is encompassed by both of the districts, the 10th most ‘walkable’ area in the nation. Considering that the Broadway corridor is home to many well-established restaurants, bars, galleries and office parks alike, we are not at all surprised that the area scored a 96 out of a possible 100. And, when walking isn’t the preferred option, the districts have co-sponsored the ‘Free Broadway’ shuttle to get people around.

Large corporate and small entrepreneurial businesses, non-profits, restaurants and art galleries alike all call the districts home. In fact, the districts recently announced that over 182,000 square feet of space has been leased to accommodate new retail and service businesses moving into the city’s central business core, as well as the expanding footprints of current leases to accommodate growth needs. Some notable recent leases include: expansion of the worldwide digital music catalyst, Pandora Media Inc., The Mitchell Kapor Foundation, a non-profit committed to social change for underserved communities of color, and Paul Canales’ highly acclaimed restaurant, Duende, just to name a few. To support one of the key goals of business development, the districts lead a quarterly ‘broker focus group’ with local office and retail brokers to support their leasing efforts and promote the districts’ appeal to businesses. Brokers can also access the districts leasing pages, to list their current space availability.

As seen on The Wall Street Journal’s website, the districts were proud to be home to a recent business endeavor allowing small galleries and boutiques to utilize vacant storefronts rent-free, for a set amount of time, to assist them in successfully launching their new ventures.

The districts also supported the creation of 2.Oakland, an organization dedicated to fostering the growth of a thriving tech ecosystem for Oakland. What began as a few business leaders trying to connect innovative technology companies in Oakland has grown into a strong network of Oakland and East Bay tech companies that hosts public networking, workplace recruiting, educational events, and advocates with the City of Oakland and other public organizations for a tech-friendly business environment in Oakland.

Working collaboratively with local businesses, community organizations and the City of Oakland, the Lake Merritt/Uptown and Downtown Oakland Community Benefit Districts are continually striving to make the area an ideal place for everyone to live, work and play.