Here's what O Street looks like now, developers looking to improve
For decades, the O in O Street downtown might as well have symbolized a big yawn.
There's a bit of noontime life to the street at Archives Plaza and the food cluster at 14th Street. Otherwise, O is notable for little more than parking lots, light rail lines and gray office buildings fronting blank sidewalks.
Now, Capitol-area development officials say they hope to turn the corridor from 7th to 17th streets into something livelier.
"The goal is to bring that street out of the 1980s, and in some cases out of the '50s and '60s," said Marc de la Vergne, an executive with the Capitol Area Development Authority, a joint powers group created by the city and the state. "It needs help."
CADA is throwing a block party at 9th and O streets on Thursday, asking people to offer ideas on how to "re-envision" the street. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The authority decided to turn its attention to O Street after playing a key role in the recent resurgence of the now artsy R Street Corridor a few blocks away, where lofts, restaurants and a new supermarket have sprung up.
Plans, though, are not as grand at this point for O Street. CADA initially wants to add color, clean it up and make it feel safer for bicyclists. That means creative and colorful crosswalks and new landscaping, said de la Vergne. "There are interesting opportunities to introduce art on the street."
But it may mean bigger changes later. The state is beginning construction of two offices on O Street, and de la Vergne said his organization wants to plant the idea that those buildings should be designed to make the street more of a magnet, possibly with ground-floor retail.
Downtown workers on O Street Tuesday agreed the street could use some pumping up, but they were a little uncertain about what to do.
Juan Flores, an intern at the Capitol, suggested "some big murals, community murals, where people volunteer."
Mona Castenada thought food trucks might help, but pointed out that parking is so coveted and expensive that drivers would not be happy to lose their spots. She said The California Museum, at the corner of 10th and O streets, does a good job of presenting California's story and could be better served with a livelier street around it.
Perhaps, she said, CADA should build an arch over the street like it did on R Street.
"O Street has been like this for 30 years," she said. "It's time to change."