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Oakland's Temescal Alley is a Design Diamond in the Rough

Originally published on CaliforniaHomeDesign.com

A creek once ran through the Oakland neighborhood of Temescal. While long gone, if you look in this neighborhood’s back alleys, you can find a strong current of urban renewal that is feeding the community in ways the old water way could not.

Tucked off Telegraph Avenue and 49th Street, in what used to be horse stables-cum-carriage houses, now resides a vibrant community of artist studios, retail shops and eateries. It is an artistic, hipster-leaning but family-friendly enclave that is quickly becoming the heart of a community better known for its ethnic eateries than bohemian boutiques.

While Temescal Alley may be the brainchild of UC Berkeley architecture professor Raymond Lifchez and his wife Sarita Waite, it is the love child of about 20 different establishments that call it “home.” Strolling through the two alleys that comprise “Temescal Alley,” it quickly becomes apparent that this isn’t like any other pedestrian mall.

Owners readily cross the path to each other’s stores to talk shop, share gossip or simply inquire if they can make change for a customer. Shop owners take pride in addressing repeat customers on a first name basis and taking the time to explain their wares to new patrons. To ensure that the Alley maintains a diverse mix of products, shop owners must vet new brands they would like to include in their stores. As one shop owner put it “no two stores will ever have the same things. It’s what I think our customers want…. a unique shopping experience.”

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