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Transit Innovation: Transit-Oriented Development in Fruitvale

The Fruit of Oakland: Transit Oriented Development in Fruitvale

Only 15 miles outside of San Francisco, the Fruitvale neighborhood in Central East Oakland is home to more than 48,000 residents living in 13,000 households. Made up largely of Latinos, Asians and African Americans, Fruitvale is the densest and youngest neighborhood in Oakland.  The community is adjacent to a BART train station, easily accessible by several bus connections, and centrally located in Oakland. Today, Fruitvale is considered one of the best examples of successful transit-oriented development that preserves the cultural integrity of the existing community and enhances the neighborhood’s quality of life.  The community went from a neighborhood of anguish and disrepair to a neighborhood of hope and choice.

Cafe at Fruitvale BART Station, Photo Courtesy of Susan Decker

 

In the early 1990s, the neighborhood faced a serious decline in economic, physical, and social conditions. Retail vacancies were high, crime was rampant, and home ownership was very low.   The neighborhood was unsafe and undesirable.  Because of its proximity to the train station, commuters often drove from the outskirts of Oakland to Fruitvale to park and take the train into Oakland and San Francisco. Transit officials announced plans to expand their parking facilities to accommodate the commuters driving to the station. During this time, Fruitvale saw a sea of concrete parking structures, increased vehicle traffic and emissions, and little investment in its not so distant future.

Strong community leadership and forward visionary thinking sparked a local organization to turn the community around. A non-profit organization known as the Unity Council identified Fruitvale’s primary assets – its access to transit and central location in the Bay Area –  and transformed the once run down neighborhood into a successful, thriving transit hub. 

 

Preschool in the Fruitvale Transit Village

 

The development known as the Fruitvale Transit Village created dense housing near transit with approximately 68 percent of its current housing development designated as affordable. Traffic calming measures, landscaping, and street furniture created a more walkable neighborhood and established a series of successful inviting public plazas and open spaces.  Anchored by a concentration of community services and quality programming – including a public library, senior center, high school, preschool, health care clinic, and job center – the investment in Fruitvale’s Transit Village led to the creation of more than 400 permanent jobs on site. Public open spaces are programmed, managed, and maintained by the Unity Council which conducts festivals, cultural displays, and a weekly farmer’s market. To meet the needs of commuters, parking was increased throughout Fruitvale but alongside the parking spaces came bike racks, bike service stations, pedestrian lighting, bus shelters, and plenty of public seating.

 

Public Market - Business Incubator

The Unity Council’s model to building successful transit oriented development is strongly based on a community led vision and organizational commitment.  Strong leadership, support of elected and appointed officials, and sophisticated development and financing helped get the Fruitvale Transit Village off the ground.  With one of the largest rail networks in the country, the Chicagoland area can look to Fruitvale’s model to help transform areas near transit into thriving economic and social centers of a community.

This article was featured in Talking Transit, MPC's bi-weekly e-newsletter. To receive the newsletter, visit http://www.metroplanning.org/personalize.asp.

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