OAKLAND — With shiny silver shovels glinting in the sun, an Oakland developer and county officials broke ground Thursday on a large new development they heralded as a cornerstone of economic revitalization for the uptown area.
“The change in uptown Oakland has been predicted for years and touted for years, and now it’s here, ” said former Alameda County Supervisor Mary King during a ceremony commemorating the start of construction on the Thomas L. Berkley Square project. King has been working as a consultant to the project team.
The $70 million project will bring a mix of commercial and retail development to 1.5 acres on San Pablo Avenue between 21st Street and Thomas L. Berkley Way, formerly 20th Street.
Officials on Thursday broke ground on the first phase of the project, which includes a four-story office building that will serve as the new home of the county’s welfare offices, a parking structure and 5,000 square feet of retail space. The buildings are expected to be completed in late 2005.
The second phase of construction, expected to begin in mid-2006, will include housing, retail space and a venue to broadcast live music.
Despite objections from preservationists, the 91-year-old Hotel Royal and the old Oakland Post building will be razed to make way for the project.
Standing in the shadow of the already partially torn-down hotel, project developer Alan Dones said the development will bring much-needed services to the uptown area and would make its namesake proud. Thomas Berkley was a community activist and former publisher of the Oakland Post.
“Everything about this building is a community-oriented project,” Dones said.
Community officials said they were excited to be a pert of the project, which will provide a new headquarters for the Social Services Agency and the North County Self Sufficiency Center. The center will consolidate welfare pograms and include space for job training and job placement services, care management, community education and child care.
“To have the county come together with a project that really revitalizes the community is a a Social Service Agency director’s dream,” said Chet Hewitt, director of Alameda County Social Services Agency.
Originally published in the Oakland Tribune on July 31, 2004
by Michelle Maitre, Staff Writer