“Restore Oakland,” an ambitious, one-of-a-kind community hub, opened its doors this week with plans to provide local residents with access to housing rights legal services, eviction protection, training for higher-paying jobs, hosting organizing meetings, obtaining resources to launch and incubate a food-oriented small business, resolving conflict through restorative justice circles and enjoying a healthy sit-down meal.
The Restore Oakland building, at the corner of 34th Avenue and International Boulevard in the Fruitvale District, was jointly purchased and renovated by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United). The building will also house Causa Justa/Just Cause; La Cocina and the ground-floor COLORS restaurant; and provide meeting space for Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY) and Community Works.
“At Restore Oakland people can walk in to get free job training in the restaurant industry and access to services that will open the door to more economic opportunity. This building is the vision we want to see for workers, for formerly incarcerated people, for members of the community,” said Saru Jayaraman, President of ROC United and Restore Oakland cofounder.
Said Zachary Norris, Restore Oakland cofounder and executive director of the Ella Baker Center, “Strong communities need strong, community-centered organizations, and at Restore Oakland people can come together to organize and act for one Oakland. We hope that our center serves as a model for other cities across the country as a place where folks impacted by prisons and punishment can unite, access restorative justice services to resolve conflict, and create opportunities rooted in healing.”
Reetu Mody, interim executive director of Restore Oakland, described the vision for the new space.
“Restore Oakland is not like any other building,” said Mody. “By creating a central space where residents can go to build power, access a range of opportunities to earn a better living, build toward a safe and secure East Oakland, and restore community health and wholeness, Restore Oakland will work to bridge the gap between housing rights, conflict resolution, small business incubation and human rights.”
Deanna Van Buren, cofounder of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces, the architecture and real estate nonprofit that designed Restore Oakland, said the building “provides a powerful model for how every city can play a role in ending mass incarceration by creating a new type of infrastructure that facilitates restorative justice while advancing economic opportunity in communities that have long been oppressed.”
The $18.2 million project received funding from the California Endowment, the NoVo Foundation, Heising-Simons Foundation, the Hellman Foundation and additional institutional donors. The fundraising campaign resulted in donations of over $650,000 from community members. The remaining fundraising balance is $752,745.