Group aims to build 120 homes with Black cultural center in East Oakland

BCZ Community Development Corp. working on mixed-use complex in Liberation Park

BCZ's Carolyn Johnson with Liberation Park in East Oakland (LinkedIn, Google Maps, iStock)
BCZ's Carolyn Johnson with Liberation Park in East Oakland (LinkedIn, Google Maps, iStock)

A nonprofit group dedicated to the Black community has proposed building a 26,000-square-foot Black cultural center and 120 affordable homes in East Oakland.

BCZ Community Development Corp., based in East Oakland, has proposed building the mixed-use complex on a 1.2-acre park at 73rd Avenue and McArthur Boulevard, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

The triangular parcel known as Liberation Park has been a gathering spot for the Black Cultural Zone Collaborative, which has been licensed by the city to operate the property since April 2020. The group aims to create a development for existing East Oakland residents with an intent of countering gentrification trends in the Eastmont neighborhood.

Its BCZ Community Development Corp. affiliate is shepherding the development of the Black Cultural Zone cultural center and affordable housing complex.

“This location has been abandoned for about 15 years,” said Carolyn Johnson, CEO of BCZ Community Development. “It mirrors the abandonment of East Oakland.

“This can show we are turning things around,” she said. “From the perspective of hope, to be able to turn this asset around means this community can do anything.”

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The cultural center is expected to total 26,000 square feet, and include a food hall, an event hall, a music hall, and a performance center, along with a rooftop event space, Johnson said. There would also be co-working spaces for the community.

Of the 120 affordable homes, 20 would be set aside as live-work spaces for “cultural entrepreneurs,” according to the preliminary application at City Hall. BCZ Community Development is negotiating with Oakland officials on who would own the property as the project moves forward.

“We are moving rapidly to reach a development and disposition agreement with the city,” Johnson said.

From 1916 to 1963, the land was part of a Chevrolet assembly plant, according to The Oaklandside. The now defunct Oakland Redevelopment Agency purchased the property for about $2.2 million from the Eastmont Town Center owners in 2008.

For the past two years, the Black Cultural Zone has hosted an outdoor market and cultural events. BCZ hopes the mixed-use development will be the first of 10 Black cultural zone hubs across Oakland.

[San Jose Mercury News] – Dana Bartholomew

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