OAKLAND -- The long-closed firehouse on Champion Street in the Dimond District is up for sale, and residents and merchants are appealing to the city to take what they consider the smartest bid, rather than jump at the highest offer.
About 60 people attended a meeting Feb. 6 to hear the city's status on the bidding process for the surplus property. District 4 Councilmember Libby Schaaf and city staff attended the meeting.
Daniel Swafford, a board member of the Dimond Improvement Association, was among those championing a campaign to convince the city to consider the best long-term occupant -- one who would regularly bring money into the district and into city coffers. They believe the most viable bidders to fulfill those goals are Rick Mitchell and Maria Alderete, who own Luka's Taproom & Lounge on Broadway in Uptown. They have proposed opening a beer-focused barbecue restaurant at the firehouse.
"The basic idea is to create something the community wants, and folks in Dimond love their craft beer," Mitchell said. He attended the meeting and said while he appreciates the community support, he doesn't know which way the city will go in terms of considering bids and types of uses. Swafford said the city didn't specify exact bidders, but that other uses mentioned include service-oriented businesses, live-work space and possibly another food-related shop. He said there are six bidders.
The meeting was called because residents and merchants felt the community had not been involved enough in the bidding process and that long-term benefits could outweigh a one-time big bid. They have requested the city look at including that criteria in their decision on which bid to take.
Chris Harper, chair of the improvement association, wrote to the city: "The DIA has long sought to see the property serve as a catalyst for existing and future Dimond businesses by creating jobs and fulfilling a community need. A sit-down restaurant with a viable business plan has been the DIA's vision for the Fire Station property since we attracted Farmer Joe's Marketplace as an anchor in 2006."
Swafford said Luka's has a proven track record in restaurant operations.
"This would put jobs in the district and generate sales tax revenue for the city," he said. "It would add activity to the business area."
The city's real estate division did not return calls by press time. Swafford and Mitchell speculate it could take six to eight weeks before the city finalizes its bidding process. After they recommend a bid, the City Council will decide whether or not to approve it.