Central Station

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Monday, April 9, 2012

Passport Oakland: Fun so far!

Passport Oakland has been a big success so far, delivering two well-attended and fun events last week. I got my passport stamped - have you yet? Keep in mind that if you missed the events, you can still visit the buildings that hosted and catch up by getting your passport stamped at their sales offices and you'll get the $100 gift certificate to great restaurants like Ozumo and Pican.

On Thursday, April 5 the Ellington (that tower in Jack London square you can easily see from downtown and 880) held a panel of experts on the local Oakland economy in general and housing market in particular. The building is really slick - it feels like a high end hotel with a gorgeous concierge lobby on Broadway, amazing bay views from upper floors, and a rooftop pool on top of the parking garage. Apparently they just sold one of their ultra-lux penthouse units which is a good sign for Oakland real estate. The panel thursday night was all positivity. Sarah Filley from popuphood talked about the strength of small business and the diversity and resilience of Oakland lifestyle-based retail like coffee, bars, and bike shops. Its those great neighborhood retailers and restaurants that folks like most about Oakland. All of the panelists, including economist Janet Smithheimer and Oakland infill developer Mike Ghilmetti, talked about how we're past asking the question of whether the housing market has hit bottom, and the turn around is clear both anecdotaly (said Ghilmetti, based on sales picking up) and in the data (said Smithheimer, whose job it is to only look at numbers). Prices are exceptionally low, interest rates are historically great, and lenders are finally relaxing their standards to more realistic expectations which mean that most people again can walk into a bank and hopefully qualify for a loan on a home they can afford. It was a really analytical and thoughtful conversation with a clear message - things have turned around, and Oakland is a great opportunity for young first-time buyers or older folks moving back in from the suburbs to buy into a walkable, vibrant, urban lifestyle. More importantly, that home and lifestyle are affordable in Oakland. After the cerebral housing market chat came the fun - cocktails and appetizers in the Ellington's 13th floor model units!

The friday event at Broadway Grand was a pre-party for Oakland's monthly First Friday celebration and Art Murmur. Art Murmur is always rocking, and Broadway Grand hosted a fun way to kick-off the night with free bites from Ozumo, Tina Tamale, and James and the Giant Cupcake - 3 local favorite Oakland food vendors. The party was so popular it booked up in advance so I couldn't even get in! Its a good reminder to sign up early for the Passport Oakland events because folks know these are fun events with great free food, drink, and giveaways.

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