Built to replace a double-decked freeway that infamously collapsed in the 1989 earthquake, Mandela Parkway is a broad boulevard with a landscaped central strip that features a paved, accessible path. Running about 1.5 miles, from 34th Avenue to the West Oakland BART station on Seventh Street, the parkway passes modern live-work projects, artist studios, working industrial businesses and a few derelict lots.
Starting on the 34th Avenue end, you’ll soon pass the West End Commons, a group of townhomes whose European style and urban feel are typical of new construction in the area. A few blocks later, you pass Brown Sugar Kitchen, an upscale “New Soul” restaurant known for its comfort-food breakfasts. Even at 2 p.m. on a weekend, a dozen people are waiting on the sunny sidewalk for a table.
The Parkway itself is landscaped in ceanothus, toyon and various kinds of young oaks. It’s open and sunny — very sunny, so choose an overcast or brisk day for your walk.
I got sidetracked at the corner of West Grand Avenue and Mandela, where a group of artists that includes members of the Burning Man Project and the Crucible have set up a post-apocalyptic midway called the Peralta Junction (running Thursday-Sunday through Dec. 15, 2012). In a triangular lot next to the Peralta Studios (more live-work space), a temporary village of craft stalls, food trucks, and carnival-style attractions surrounds an elaborate stage featuring live music.
Getting there: Mandela Parkway can be accessed from Seventh Street or from Hollis Avenue in Emeryville.
Cool stuff in the neighborhood: There are a surprising number of circus-related schools in West Oakland. Trapeze Arts at Ninth and Pine streets has been teaching people to fly for almost 20 years.
More information: About archaeological finds while building the parkway from Sonoma State University.