A mall in a notoriously economically depressed part of East Oakland is being reborn after a 20-year effort to recast it and revitalize the area.
This is more than just a new coat of paint. Most of the original mall has been demolished and rebuilt, rising like a phoenix from the graffiti and construction debris. With the new and reopening stores will come between 100 and 150 jobs that are sorely needed in this part of East Oakland. A job fair for the new stores will be held this Wednesday (see details below).
Foothill Square is in the southeast corner of Oakland, near the 106th Avenue off-ramp of 580. It fronts MacArthur Boulevard between 106th and 108th Avenues and goes up to Foothill Boulevard near the freeway. It was constructed in 1961 with Lucky’s and Thrity Drugs as the anchor stores, and continued until the early 1990s.
The $44 million reconstruction project is being directed by John Jay of the Jay-Phares Construction company. John Jay and his partner Hugh (Ken) Phares created the Jay-Phares Corporation in 1988 as a combined developer, brokerage, and property leasing and management firm. Jay explained that they have been working on revitalizing Foothill Square since 1994, when an armed robbery with an Uzi led to the loss of tenant businesses.
Jay first worked on increasing occupancy at the mall through the 90s when government agencies such as Social Security filled the space. They also worked on a series of deals with anchor tenants like Home Depot, Long’s Drugs, and Albertson’s — in that case for a 55,000-square-foot supermarket. Both times, the partner companies were sold and the new owners backed out of the deal, leaving the neighborhoods in this “Deep East” part of Oakland without a major food market or other key businesses.
When asked why they persevered so long and through so many obstacles, Jay explained, “Our business is the rehabilitation of core urban properties. We’ve been in business for 25 years… That’s what we do.” The Jay-Phares Corp. has successful smaller developments in the Fruitvale and other under-served parts of Oakland.
Finally, Jay found a steady partner in the Kroeger grocery chain. Working with Kroeger, Jay-Phares is now completing a new 73,000-square-foot Foods Co. store, which will be one of the largest new supermarkets in the East Bay. New mall tenants will also include Ross Dress for Less, Anna’s Linens, Rainbow Apparel, and a Wells Fargo Bank. Many existing tenants will move into new buildings, including Davita Dialysis, the Life Long health clinic, and many smaller businesses that were located at Foothill Square. The Grand Opening is planned for March 5.
This also means up to new 150 jobs. A job fair to staff the new stores will be held at Allen Temple with representatives from all the new businesses this Wednesday, January 15, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. A resume workshop will be held at Allen Temple from 10 a.m. to noon the same day. Job applicants should dress for interviews and carry both photo IDs and Social Security cards.
The Jobs Fair this week is a joint effort between Allen Temple and the District 7 committee of the Block by Block Organizing Network (BBBON), which hold monthly meetings on the 4th Friday of the month to discuss community issues.
Here are images from Foothill Square as it nears completion: