Uptown: Oakland, California


Uptown incubates the home-grown, artistic, and entrepreneurial spirit unique to Oakland. The neighborhood has experienced significant revitalization over the last 15 years, transforming an area dominated by underutilized parking lots into the Bay Area's premier arts and entertainment district. The neighborhood was officially designated as the "Arts and Entertainment District" by the City of Oakland in 2009.

Designated Area

Bounded by Grand Avenue to the north, 14th Street (to Jefferson Street) and 17th Street (to Telegraph Street) to the south, the I-980 freeway to the west and Telegraph Avenue to the east.

Uptown Art Park. Photo courtesy City of Oakland.

Planning Excellence

Uptown is home to numerous performance venues such as the eclectic Fox Theater, the Art Deco–inspired Paramount Theater, the New Parkway Theater, and the New Parish. Cultural events take place each month, thanks to the collaboration of 40 local galleries, artists, and mixed-use art spaces. A few of the signature events include the Oakland Art Murmur First Friday Art Gallery Walk and the Oakland First Friday Festival, which draw crowds of 20,000 to the neighborhood. Uptown boasts a wealth of public art, such as the recently completed topographical wall sculpture featuring color-shifting LED lighting created by nationally acclaimed artist Dan Corson, located at the 19th Street Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) exit, and other sculptures in Uptown's Art Park.

During the mid- to late 2000s, the Uptown Residential Project served as a major catalyst for private investment and job creation in the Uptown District. Part of former Mayor Jerry Brown's 10K Housing Initiative, the Uptown Area Residential Project embodied values of both the city and local residents. Phase I entailed cleanup of a brownfield site, and 20 percent of the units were affordable to households earning less than 50 percent of area median income. Phase I received LEED Silver certification. Phase II, spearheaded by the Coalition for Workforce Housing and 15 other community organizations, was a 100 percent affordable housing development for households earning less than 60 percent of area median income.

The project design took advantage of its proximity to public transportation and created a transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood with a variety of housing options. A 25,000-square-foot public park is located at the center of the project and serves as the focal point of the neighborhood.

The New York Times ranked Uptown number 5 on the "45 Best Places to Go in 2012." The neighborhood is distinguished through the dedication of its residents, concentration of arts, culture and entertainment venues, restaurants, bars, and well-preserved historic buildings, all within close proximity and with easy access to transportation. Transit options are plentiful for residents, including two downtown Oakland Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stations, numerous AC Transit bus lines, free weekday shuttles, Greyhound bus stops, and close proximity to all of the major freeways.

Aerial view of Oakland First Fridays. Photo Greg Linhares, City of Oakland.

Defining Characteristics, Features


  • The Fox Theater, originally opened as a movie theater (1928), closed in 1965 and remained largely unused for decades; after its designation on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, it reopened in 2009 thanks to public and private funding and quickly became one of the Bay Area's top music venues; it is also home to the Oakland School for the Arts, a tuition-free charter school dedicated to artistic and academic excellence
  • The Paramount Theater (1931) was the largest multi-purpose theater on the West Coast seating 3,476; today is it home to Oakland East Bay Symphony and Oakland Ballet and hosts a variety of shows and special events, including screenings of classic movies from Hollywood's Golden Era
  • The Uptown Area Residential Development was named the best newly constructed development by the California Redevelopment Association; the $253 million project created affordable housing, ground floor retail, and a public park on a three-block stretch downtown
  • Uptown Arts District Park, located at Telegraph Avenue and 19th Street, opened in 2013 as an outdoor cultural space with rotating temporary exhibitions of public sculptures, newly commissioned public art projects, and an amphitheater for local events

Planning Accomplishments and Community Engagement

  • After the former ORA acquired the Fox Theater (1996), restoration projects required $75 million, funding for which included a mixture of redevelopment funding, grants from National Trust for Historic Preservation, syndication of historic tax credits, and private donations, the majority of which was raised by the Oakland Heritage Alliance and Friends of the Oakland Fox
  • Former Mayor Jerry Brown unveiled his 10K Housing Initiative (1997) to attract 10,000 new residents to the downtown Oakland area
  • The former ORA formed public-private partnerships to achieve this goal, and established a joint endeavor between Uptown Partners Housing and Fox Courts resulting in the Uptown Area Residential Development which offered new, affordable housing and amenities
  • The Uptown Residential Development Project is a dynamic urban mixed-use renewal project incorporating retail space, 1,200 mixed-income apartments and student housing; designated as a LEED Silver-certified project by transforming an underutilized parking lot into an urban community
  • The Lake Merritt/Uptown District Association was created in 2009 by property owners to revitalize Uptown's commercial district
  • Uptown was designated by the City of Oakland as the first "Arts and Entertainment District" (2009)
  • In 2005, the city bought a parcel of land that was slated to become a parking lot; through a community campaign at city council, negotiations for a temporary revolving art park funded by a $200,000 Creative Placemaking grant from the National Endowment for the Arts became a reality in 2013; now known as Uptown Arts District Park


  • Oakland Art Murmur (OAM) began as a collaboration among eight art spaces to promote the arts region and gain a wider audience for their individual visual art programs
  • The OAM led to the creation of the First Friday Art Gallery Walk in 2006, when all participating spaces held concurrent receptions; this is now a hybrid event with 40 participating galleries and mixed-use arts spaces, attracting 20,000 visitors to the event officially called "Oakland Art Murmur First Friday Art Gallery Walk"
  • Oakland First Friday Festival is a popular street festival that includes street performances, food and craft vending, one-night art installations, receptions, and shows at various art venues

Oakland's Uptown District. Photo Greg Linhares, City of Oakland.