“I think it’s slowed because immigration has slowed down,” Franzella said. “For the last 20 years, you’ve really had a lot of people coming in. Now they’re assimilating and moving out of the inner city.”
Those families that remain tend to have fewer children, he said.
Women, who once stayed at home to take care of the children, are now working outside the home.
No longer are they going to the neighborhood market every day. Instead, they shop at chains less frequently, loading up on essentials, Franzella said.
A downhill slide
But on the other side of the bay, the outlook isn’t as bright. At the Oakland Terminal Produce Market, also known as the Franklin Street Market, a handful of vendors hang on.
During the past decade, some have shut their door while others, such as Bay Cities Produce Co., have moved to newer or more expansive facilities.
The buildings that house the market date back to the early 1900s and have historical status, so any major modifications would have to meet environmental and historical regulations, said Margot Lederer Prado, with the city’s Economic and Workforce Department.
The zoning also has changed, and the area near Jack London Square is now designated for light industrial, retail and restaurants, she said.
For more than a decade, there has been talk of the market relocating to part of the nearby former Oakland Army Base.
Any plans are now moot after the Oakland City Council in June approved a proposal by developer California Capital and Investment Group to turn the base into an intermodal and distribution site.
Although the city has plenty of buildings suited to produce wholesalers, Lederer Prado said there have been no takers because the rents in the Jack London Produce District are below market.
She is conducting a food cluster economic study to examine the financial benefits of enticing food-based companies to Oakland. The terminal market will be included.
In addition, Hope Collaborative, an Oakland-based group of community agencies, non-profits and citizens, has received a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant to study the feasibility of creating a food hub in Oakland.
The terminal market also will be included, although in what role is unknown since the study is in its infancy.