- Project Name
- Restore Oakland
- Designing Justice + Designing Spaces
- Restore Oakland
- Project Types
- Project Scope
- Adaptive Reuse
- 17,948 sq. feet
- Shared by
- Project Status
This article appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of ARCHITECT.
Restore Oakland is a new type of community hub: Formed as a joint initiative between the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Restaurant Opportunities Center United, the new facility is home to six nonprofits, all of which focus on community advocacy, empowerment, and restorative justice and economics.
Owning a space was important—the Ella Baker Center alone had been forced to move several times as a result of gentrification. “Once they are able to become an anchor, it opens up opportunities to serve the community,” says architectural associate Shelley Davis Roberts of local architecture and real estate development nonprofit Designing Justice + Designing Spaces. “You’re not constantly worried about: ‘Is the rent going to go up,’ or ‘Can I renew for another two years?’”
With its dual areas of expertise and social justice mission, DJ+DS was uniquely poised to help develop the idea of the center, as well as to find and renovate a building for it. The 1931 structure’s location in the Fruitvale neighborhood and access to public transit were ideal.
The ground floor of the gut-renovated building is largely occupied by Colors—a ROCU-operated restaurant that hosts job training and placement programs for low-income women and people of color. Shared office and meeting spaces in the basement serve several nonprofits, while the second floor holds the offices of the Ella Baker Center as well as dedicated space for Alameda County’s restorative justice program.
With so many diverse groups to serve—and a tight budget to work with—the team turned to inexpensive yet effective strategies, such as bright paint colors, for creating different identities in the shared space.
Restorative justice space is a typology DJ+DS has been exploring for a decade plus, but this is the first to be built in the U.S. The design developed out of community engagement with restorative justice practitioners and with the youth that the facility serves by offering conflict resolution outside of the carceral system.
The engagement process was “very iterative—we check in to make sure that we’re listening to their experiences,” Roberts says. “We can’t design effectively for experiences that we haven’t lived. When we’re dealing with communities that have been traumatized, it would be a disservice to say, ‘I’m creating a healing space,’ if I haven’t talked to anybody who’s been through this about what they need.”
There is no one-size-fits-all design for a restorative justice facility; needs differ in each community. Here, a circle of seating brings parties together and is complemented by soft surfaces, natural light, and elements from nature. Also important are places to retreat, places to record thoughts, and separate entrances for each party.
The success of Restore Oakland has fueled DJ+DS’s desire to develop more restorative-justice spaces. “It’s a radically different approach that fosters transformation of communities through forgiveness and compassion,” Roberts says. “It’s a very different path than punishment, fear, and alienation.” For architects, she says, the question is, “How do you provide infrastructure, buildings, policy that supports [that] in a real way? Architects have to engage with people who are dealing with policy and education around criminal justice reform.”
Project: Restore Oakland, Oakland, Calif.
Client: Restore Oakland
Design Architect/Interior Designer: Designing Justice + Designing Spaces, Oakland . Deanna Van Buren (design director); Shelley Davis Roberts, Oretola Thomas, Naeeme Mohammadi (architecture associates); Kacper Bigonski, Ryan Schultz (architects)
Architect of Record: Oscia Wilson, AIA
Financing/Real Estate: Kyle Rawlins
Structural Engineer: Forell/Elsesser Engineers
MEP Engineer: Canyon Consulting Engineers
Civil Engineer: KLC Consulting Engineers & Architects
Geotechnical Engineer: Geotecnia
Construction Manager: Jerry Jai
General Contractor: BBI Construction
Lighting Designer: Lighting Systems
Kitchen Consultant: Rocket Restaurant Resource
Waterproofing Consultant: Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates
Size: 17,948 square feet
Cost: $7.9 million
This article has been updated since first publication to correct the construction cost.