It’s not often that I get so impatient for something new to open, but awaiting the opening of Awaken Cafe has been driving me a bit crazy lately.
I’m sure part of the explanation is that I pass the cafe at least 10 times per week, as I walk down 14th Street to and from work. Another explanation is that I still miss the Golden Bull, the dive bar that used to occupy the building.
But I think it’s much more than that. Maybe I’m hoping for too much, but the creators of Awaken have captured my attention with their vision for the cafe:
Downtown Oakland can seem like a deserted wasteland after dark despite the presence of a handful of exciting organizations and venues. The Awaken Café will be the hub for an emergence of Oakland as a destination for those seeking community, culture and the arts. We will tie Oakland together through continuously developing and expanding strategic relationships with local business owners, activist organizations, and arts organizations with common interests and pursuits. You will find at our café a space to socialize, exchange ideas, and build lasting social and business networks. As a member of our community, you will be part of the emergence of a new downtown Oakland that is healthy and inviting to all people!
OK, OK, I know it sounds cheesy, but I think they’re on to something. While Uptown is emerging as a viable neighborhood, and Old Oakland and Jack London Square have scenes of their own, the center of Downtown pretty much dies at 5pm. Sure, there are a few great bars and a couple restaurants that stay open, but they’re pretty spread out and there are few people walking around past 6 or 7pm.
I love the idea of anchoring the center of the city with a cafe that also functions as a community center, art gallery, and live entertainment venue. And I think Downtown’s ready for it. I also like the the creators’ focus on being environmentally friendly: they’ll be serving organic coffee, tea and food and focusing on reducing waste, both in construction and on a day-to-day basis.
I got even more excited (and impatient) a couple weeks ago when the cafe’s signs were put up:
The signs have brightened 14th Street with a touch of Burning Man style, which isn’t surprising, since the cafe’s creators are avid burners.
Awaken’s blog claimed in November that Phase 1 (a smaller version of the full cafe to serve coffee and some food) would open by the end of the year, but this seems unlikely at this point. Still, I’m hopeful that maybe by the time I return to work on January 2nd I’ll have a place to pick up something warm to drink after 5pm. And soon after that, when the full cafe is complete, hopefully we’ll all have much more.