Main Streets 2016: California
From hosting the largest shipbuilders on the West Coast during World War II to its current campaign to become a pedestrian-friendly “urban village,” Macdonald Avenue has lived through some powerful changes.
Today, the Richmond Main Street Initiative is a certified program of Main Street America that’s taking an interlinked, multi-front approach to redeveloping downtown as a safe and thriving destination for businesses, entertainment and the arts. Running from the Richmond Parkway to I-80, Macdonald Avenue is the primary east-west connector in the heart of downtown Richmond, in the eastern region of the San Francisco Bay area.
This is part of the area known as The Iron Triangle, so-called because it was bounded by railroad tracks, which have since been covered over with asphalt. In recent years, the area became known as a high-crime district — but the work to build a new, positive direction was uplifted by the opening in 2011 of the new East Bay Center for the Performing Arts at Macdonald and 11th Street. The East Bay Center has been in operation since 1968, and has given over 50,000 student artists a chance to develop themselves and their work. The Center’s new facility includes the aptly named Iron Triangle Theater.
The Richmond Chamber of Commerce provides services, resources and advocacy. The Downtown Holiday Festival, Small Business Saturday and the annual Community Fund Golf Tournament are just a few of its activities. The Main Street Initiative is working to attract more people to downtown Richmond, in part by organizing events such as Music on the Main, Art in Windows, and the Spirit and Soul Festival. The Summer Youth Entrepreneurs Program helps youngsters develop business-related skills. Several farmers’ markets, both on and around MacDonald Avenue, are a strong feature of Richmond, with local produce, fruit, eggs and handmade crafts.
For outdoor activities, the Nevin Center hosts sailing, biking, camping and kayaking. Just to the west of Macdonald Avenue is Point Richmond, where Europeans settled in the mid-1800s. Nearby is the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front, a 145-acre National Historical Park that overlooks the site of the Kaiser Richmond Shipyards, which produced more ships during the war than any other.
Speaking of history, the Richmond Museum on Nevin Street, one block north of Macdonald Avenue, showcases the history of this diverse city. The museum also maintains the SS Red Oak Victory, the “Ship that Rosie Built,” a restored, locally built cargo ship that serves as a monument to the men and women who worked in wartime industries during World War II.
Photo courtesy of Richmond Main Street Initiative
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