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Esther’s Orbit Room

Oakland, CA | Redevelopment and Restoration

The developer client expressed interest in the possible purchase of a lot that once housed a historic jazz club located on the west side of Oakland California. The site of exploration was the former Esther’s Orbit Room, a jazz and blues club opened in 1959 by Esther Mabry, which once hosted such prominent musicians as Etta James, B.B. King, and Al Green.

Esther’s was located in West Oakland’s once vibrant 7th street, an area dubbed the “Harlem of the West Coast.” Close to the Port of Oakland as well as the railroad station, 7th Street hosted a lively nightlife full of visitors and locals alike. In the center of it all was Esther’s Orbit Room.

In the late 1960’s, a series of infrastructural projects led to the decline of 7th Street. Both the new highway and the railway transit system effectively cut off 7th Street from the rest of Oakland, and the introduction of a mega-center for the Postal Service led to the demolition of a vast amount of the nearby residential housing stock. Today, 7th Street is largely devoid of the vibrancy it once held. Despite its best efforts, Esther’s Orbit Room finally closed in 2009. Esther Mabry died in 2010.
Shuttered and in disrepair, the client wanted to explore the option of updating and renovating the existing building, transforming it into a new bar. Maintaining its connection and paying tribute to its rich local history was critical to the client, yet with the understanding that simply re-creating a complete replication of its aesthetic past would be less effective.

The proposed scheme largely maintains the existing footprint of the building. The bar, restaurant, and kitchen are expanded and updated, and an outdoor courtyard patio is introduced. A multi-use flex space is also developed, which has the ability to be used as either a music or event space, a commercial storefront, or an overflow room for the bar and restaurant.