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It's safe to say that listing agents aren't usually applauded for doing their job. But Jennifer Joey Smith may be the exception to the rule. Well-wishers greeted the agent as she walked to the open house for a converted bowling alley at 3525 Fruitvale Ave. in Oakland, CA.
"I got 10 high-fives walking down my street. It's an active and involved community that wants more businesses," Smith says. The showing was packed, and the Golden State Warriors were playing on the TV. "It was just so much fun," she adds.
Smith and Shihli Lu are co-listers of this property that can be converted into a hip live-work space in the up-and-coming Dimond District in East Oakland. Into more than simply turning transactions, the agents are also neighborhood boosters.
Both serve on an economic development committee to bring new businesses to the area. They see this property as a shining example of what they hope to achieve in Oakland.
The two call the address a "landmark building." The two-story structure was opened as a bowling alley in 1947 by one Sam Schect, a notable bowler himself, according to the listing. The popular alley operated well into the '70s, until "bowling went out of fashion," Smith says.
The building was eventually purchased as a foreclosure in 1985 by the current sellers. The long, 6,720-square-foot space worked for their print shop, which is operating to this day; however, the owners intend to retire once the property is sold.
Given the $850,000 price tag for a San Francisco Bay Area live-work combo, they're well on their way to retirement status. Offers have already rolled in, and the sellers will review them later this month.
Upstairs, the light-filled, 960-square-foot space has never been used as a residence. Even so, "it has the potential to be a really cool loft," Smith says. The buyer would just need to add a kitchen. There's one bathroom upstairs and two restrooms downstairs. A staircase indoors and another outside lead to the second floor.
As the agents see it, the property's potential is endless: There could be an owner-occupant, or the second floor could be rented out as a residence by the downstairs business, or vice versa.
The roof was redone in the '90s, and there have been updates to the facilities along the way, but the building's history has been preserved. The original bowling lanes are still visible on the ground floor. You can see the inlaid wood and the light and dark planks marking the lanes. We'd be tempted to bring a ball and attempt to roll a strike.
The Dimond District isn't well-known outside of Oakland, but the community has evolved in recent years. There are nearby coffee shops, restaurants, and grocery stores. Hipsters, take note: Every fall the community hosts " Oaktoberfest." Beer drinking is involved. And there's an Oaklandish outpost, which hawks wares by local artisans.
There's also plenty of green in this urban area, thanks to the Dimond District Park, which includes trailheads, playgrounds, and a pool. It's located just down the hill from the pricey Oakmore District. San Francisco commuters have easy freeway access and mass transit across the bay.
"The neighborhood is beautiful and unique," Smith says. "We're having a second wave of economic development in the Dimond."
Perhaps the bowling alley will roll right into that wave of success.