Omni Commons in Oakland Stretches to Make a Community Space Permanent

Omni's ballroom has seating for up to 600.

Omni Commons is open now at 4799 Shattuck Street in Oakland — but in order to stay open, this shared space for Bay Area collectives is raising funds via Indiegogo. The ultimate goal of the group is to buy the huge 22,000 square foot building in Temescal.

[jump] If you're unfamiliar with the Omni Commons residents, it's home to the Bay Area Public School, Food Not Bombs, Sudo Room, La Commune bookstore and café, Counter Culture Labs, Material Print Machine, Timeless Infinite Light, Black Hole Cinema, the Contemporary Art Museum of Oakland, Backspace Wellness, Peak Agency, Rise Above Graphics, and more.

I asked David Brazil, one of the many volunteers, organizers, and community members at Omni, to tell me more about the space and plans for the future. 

“The Omni has already become a pretty amazing community center. On a Wednesday night a few weeks ago I think I clocked six different things going on,” said Brazil.

This six-event Wednesday isn’t an isolated event. When I was there on a Saturday evening in December there were at least that many. Brazil even told me that there would have been more if there had been space.

“It’s obviously serving its purpose as a gathering place for all kinds of different things. It's also providing material support in many ways besides just space: food & water, Internet, with more to come,” he added.

What Omni is not is a coworking space where you can pay a monthly fee to help yourself to a desk. The collective of collectives is a little anarchic because of this – anybody can walk in, look around, get a tour, use the wifi. That might not sound like the greatest business plan, but that’s the idea. Omni has already secured over $20,000 of donations on Indiegogo, which combined with an anonymous matching donation and an Oaklandish Innovators Grant means they’ve raised over $60,000. The goal is to make the space permanent and not subject to the whims of the neighborhood and gentrification by purchasing the building.
“One major long-term goal of the space is community ownership and stewardship in perpetuity,” said Brazil. “We want to keep the Omni for community use and away from the development that's making the Bay Area unlivable for so many people.”

The Indiegogo campaign is online until January 28, 2015, and Omni is a verified nonprofit organization; it only takes $10 to cover the costs of one square foot of the space. If you're interested in becoming part of the Omni community, you can also claim rewards like a cup of coffee or tea every day for a year at the La Comune bookstore and café or rent out the Fabulous Omni Commons Ballroom for whatever you want.

If you want to make your donation more personal, you can always drop by the Omni space, or you could even get involved in running it.

“Anyone is welcome to drop by anytime for a five-minute tour to check the space out and learn how to plug in,” said Brazil. “In January 2015, we're also going to have Sunday Socials, which welcome newcomers to visit the space and meet the folks who are making the Omni happen. We've evolved an organizational structure to meet the needs of this massive project, and have weekly delegates meetings every Thursday at 7 p.m.”

These meetings are, like Omni itself, open to everyone.


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