Long before Steve Jobs put his aesthetic mark on electronics, the now-deceased industrial designer Raymond Loewy achieved fame for lending artistic flair to the things of everyday life, including one project in San Leandro.
Loewy designed such iconic products as the Lucky Strike cigarette package, the slender Coca-Cola bottle, the Greyhound bus and Studebaker car line among many other projects.
Now, thanks to Kaiser-Permanente, the new downtown Village Marketplace will have a creative link to this man who is known as the Father of Industrial Design.
The Village Marketplace is a downtown retail center and plaza that will occupy what is now a parking lot at 1550 East 14th Street, near Pelton Center.
But in 1947, that site was , which was itself an historic effort to make food shopping more fun and convenient.
Lucky's founders hired Loewy to give the store more consumer appeal. This is the subject of a June 30, 1947 article in Time Magazine titled, "Retail Trade: Beauty at Work" (available online to subscribers only).
One of his contributions at the San Leandro Lucky store was a series of exterior design panels. An identical set of panels graced the Lucky distribution site west of Interstate 800, where the new Kaiser Medical Center is taking shape.
When Kaiser construction crews began their work, they took down the panels carefully and made notes about how they were installed to assist in remounting.
Kaiser has worked with city officials to make Loewy's work available for inclusion in the Village Marketplace.
When the city council gave its final approval to the Village Marketplace in May, city business development director Cynthia Battenberg said developer David Irmer will incorporate the panels in a design that will likely include some embellishments by the agency.
Battenberg said this blend of old and new art was "a way to find something about ourselves, something about our history to be proud of" in what will be a centerpiece of downtown San Leandro.