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Oakland holds contest to overhaul freeway underpasses

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The City of Oakland, California, has announced a two-stage design and construction competition for a £322,000 upgrade of its urban walkways and underpasses

The contest is open to architects, landscape architects, engineers and designers, and seeks a streetscape strategy to replace decaying and inhospitable spaces beneath the city’s busy interstate highway known as the I-880 Freeway.

Proposals should extend at least one block in each direction from the freeway and improve traffic safety and the local environment. Public art and landscape concepts that are visible from a distance are encouraged.

According to the brief: ‘Walk this Way: The Broadway/Webster Project aims to transform the areas around, under and through the Broadway and Webster Street underpasses of the I-880 Freeway into a beautiful, safe, walkable, inviting, green and iconic passageway connecting Downtown Oakland and the Waterfront.

‘The City of Oakland seeks the best talent in urban design, architecture, landscape architecture, lighting design, engineering, transportation planning, acoustics, public art and community engagement to reimagine a new future for this key area of Downtown Oakland and to develop new tools to address the many underpasses that challenge our neighbourhoods citywide.’

Oakland  is the third largest city in the San Francisco Bay Area with a population of more than 400,000 and the fifth busiest port in the United States.

Broadway is its main thoroughfare, connecting the downtown area to the city’s waterfront and serving as the primary pedestrian and vehicular corridor for Old Oakland, Chinatown and the Jack London District.

Running parallel to Broadway is Webster Street, a key pedestrian and vehicular route between Oakland and the neighbouring island city of Alameda via a road tunnel.

The elevated I-880 Freeway structure has been blamed for blighting the area surrounding the Broadway and Webster Street underpasses and reducing its vibrancy.

The area under the freeway is occupied by many homeless people, and considered to be a poor environment both for pedestrians and cyclists. Proposals for the site must combine transport planning, urban design, architecture, public art and street lighting.

Conceptual strategies should include new signage and wayfinding devices, improved landscaping, new trees and street furniture, and potential new uses for large unused spaces beneath the freeway.

Schemes are encouraged to harness data analysis and community engagement and to create an overall vision for the project which could lead to further city-wide regeneration.

The competition comes nine years after the city completed a £2 million public realm upgrade of its nearby Chinatown district dubbed ‘Revive Chinatown’.

Up to £322,000 is available for the project’s first phase, while the funding for phase two will be determined during discussions between the City of Oakland and the winning team.

Finalists will be invited to present their schemes during an interview in February and the winning team will be announced in mid-March.

The deadline for submissions is 2pm local time (PST), 14 December.

How to apply

Visit the competition website for more information

Contact details

Christina Ferracane
Oakland Department of Planning and Building
Office of the City Administrator
Department of Contracts and Compliance
250 Frank Ogowa Plaza
Suite 3341
CA 94612

Email: CFerracane@oaklandnet.com
Tel: +1 (510) 238-3190


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