Oakland’s Auto Row was once a bustling mecca of retail — a 1.3-mile stretch lined with dozens of dealerships and auto repair businesses that provided the bulk of the city’s sales tax revenue. Yet the derelict strip has the makings of “smart growth” gold, local urban planners say. It’s near two BART stations and the AC Transit express bus. Since 2000, city officials have had big plans for Auto Row. They called it the Broadway-Valdez project, a 96-acre development that included a strip of housing and restaurants next to the 19th Street BART station, the Valdez Triangle. Oakland was banking on its ability to lure developers by promoting the project with an estimated $20 million from its Redevelopment Agency. City leaders pitched it as an innovative “private-public partnership.” While redevelopment funds have been used very differently from city to city, planners in economically struggling urban centers doubt that aggressive growth accommodating all income levels can happen without a change in strategy: relying more on help from the private sector to guide and fund infill development.