One of the best things about West Oakland is that this neighborhood gets tangibly nicer every day. Watching Pacific Cannery Lofts and the neighboring communities get built, the feeling of change was almost electric. Watching them fill with hundreds of young entrepreneurs, families, and first time homeowners has been a really exciting and inspiring, not just for the people who are part of this community, but for the surrounding neighborhood. The long-time residential community here that predates PCL was extremely supportive of the Central Station development plan because they knew it was part of a bigger trend toward making this neighborhood more vibrant. They knew that it was a huge first step in major reinvestment in this neighborhood by individuals, small businesses, and the City.
And sure enough, as we've watched individual homes throughout the neighborhood be purchased and fixed up, and we've watched the City invest in neighborhood parks and streets, we've also seen local businesses popping up. One example that's important to me as a bike commuter is the bike lanes, bike shop, and other cyclists on the roads. I've mentioned before that I love PCL's Velo Lounge
. A couple weeks ago my back wheel got screwed up and I could just throw it on a stand and work on my bike for five minutes before riding off to meet a friend for dinner. Now, the City is improving bike lanes in the area, like the newly painted and soon to be extended 7th street bike lanes.
But even more exciting is the small business investment. Bikes 4 Life, a community-oriented bike shop that opened in this neighborhood in 2009 has made a great business out of not just selling and fixing bikes, but also taking the idea of investing in this community to a greater level.
Located on 7th St. in the heart of historic West Oakland, Bikes 4 Life is a grassroots neighborhood bike shop and social justice enterprise with a mission to support the surrounding community and offer healthy, sustainable life opportunities to young people.
At the shop not only do we sell and repair bikes, but we also help to build future community leaders. B4L’s business model focuses on using biking, arts and technology to empower young people and develop leadership, business skills and a sense of community pride and responsibility.
These last few weeks, Bikes 4 Life has been hard at work upgrading their shop too. I've passed by a number of recent nights and seen folks in there having a beer and swinging hammers. They've made a more inviting corner entry and better facade, and the shop definitely looks brighter and better organized.
And most importantly, I see more people out on bikes and out walking every time I go out. While that bike wheel was in the shop being repaired, I did my commute to and from BART on foot. During that 10 minute walk I would pass a surprising number of people walking and biking, and in the evenings I would also pass a lot of people out gardening in their yards or working on their houses, who would wave and say hi as I walked by.
Its a great neighborhood, and its only getting better.