Former crime-ridden West Oakland liquor store to become community center

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A former liquor store, once the hub for drugs and crime, will soon be a destination for young people learning how to make it in the music business.

It is part of a major neighborhood makeover.

San Pablo Avenue between 34th and 35th streets is ground zero for SPARC, the San Pablo Area Revitalization Collaborative in West Oakland.

The Oakland landmark California Hotel is SPARC’s revitalization centerpiece.

“The California hotel was built and opened in 1930,” Associate Director of Neighborhood Collaborations at East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation Romi Hall said. “The historical significance is that it was the only space in Oakland at the time that African-Americans could stay and perform.”

Pumping new life into the San Pablo Corridor is the non-profit East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation which now owns the hotel and the Blue Bird Liquor store right next door.

“In 2015, we received a $1 million grant from the San Francisco Foundation, the anonymous donor to purchase the Blue Bird liquor space,” Hall said. “We transformed it into a community space. We host marketplace activities and community gatherings, and we are so pleased to welcome just this year Black Ball Universe and Fantastic Negrito.”

Fantastic Negrito’s business partner, Field, explains why it was important for the Grammy award-winning artist to put his creative workspace in West Oakland.

“We had a couple of opportunities move into other places that were already established, but we chose to come here because we want to be apart of revitalizing this community,” Field said.

The California Hotel is also home to the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music.

Field says Black Ball Universe will also be the home some special music workshops.

You have a Grammy award-winning songwriter who is going to be sharing that gift right here in this space with the youth,” Field said.

Officials say they anticipate the vision for the property to complete by Jan. 2019.

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