A new development plan at the West Oakland BART station could bring around 450 housing units or a high-rise office and retail building to the station’s existing parking lots, potentially transforming one of the major transit gateways of the East Bay.
China Harbor Engineering Co. Ltd., which won the rights to negotiate with BART to build on the site last year, and local development partner Alan Donesare allowed under zoning to add housing or “a couple hundred thousand square feet” of office space, said Dones. The buildings would be built on both the north and south sides of the station, bounded by Fifth Street to Seventh Street between Chester Street and Mandela Parkway.
But first, the developers are seeking feedback on what the West Oakland community wants to see on the site. Next month, China Harbor is holding a meeting in the neighborhood to solicit ideas. “We want to get that community feedback first,” said Dones, who is also working with Lane Partners on office and residential projects in Oakland’s Uptown.
If built, the West Oakland BART project would be a major addition to the neighborhood, which is drawing numerous developers with its central location in the Bay Area and seven-minute commute by train to San Francisco. The neighborhood has thousands of new units that have been approved and proposed, but changes are igniting fears over rising rents and displacement in an area that has a dark history of urban renewal.
Some members of the community have sought more commercial space in West Oakland, which would bring new jobs and shopping options for a community that still lacks a large full-service grocery store. The Mandela Foods Cooperative, a worker-owned grocer, occupies around 2,500 square feet at 1430 7th St. across the street from the train station, but the neighborhood’s retailers are predominantly liquor stores.
For some, the West Oakland BART station is a preferred location for more retail and commercial space.
“There’s some people that feel that it would be an ideal spot, given its proximity to downtown San Francisco,” said Alan Dones.
Dones said a more detailed plan for the site should be completed by the spring and the developer plans to submit plans by the middle of next year. “By summer, things should be crystallized,” he said.
China Harbor has an exclusive negotiating agreement with BART that ends on May 12, 2016, said James Allison, a BART spokesman. It can be extended by an additional 12 months.
Dones said he first began working with China Harbor Engineering two decades ago through their subsidiary, Zhen Hua Port Machinery Company (ZPMC), which built three new cranes at the Port of Oakland, which was their first U.S. project.
China Harbor, a subsidiary of China Communications Construction, which is controlled by the Chinese government, was selected to develop the West Oakland Station largely because of its deep pockets. Their presence will bring strong institutional capital to the project, said Dones. Financing has been a major obstacle for widespread development in Oakland, which hasn’t seen major new office development since 2008.
West Oakland is seeing new residential construction from builders like City Ventures, which has broken ground on a 171-unit for-sale project at 14th Street and Wood Street. It is also filing to build an additional 44 condos on an adjacent parcel at 1405 Wood St.
A few blocks north, Holliday Development is also preparing to to break ground within the next six months on a 235-unit project, said Kevin Brown of Holliday Development at an event on Tuesday held by Bisnow. Holliday is still seeking financing but is confident that it can get it within the next few months, said Brown.
Jabari Herbert’s West Oakland Development Group, which previously competed with China Harbor for the BART station site, has also submitted applications for a major new project with up to 572 units at 500 Kirkham St. on a parking lot near the BART station that is owned by Caltrans.
China Harbor Engineering is holding a community meeting on Saturday, Dec. 12at 1724 Adeline St. at 1:30 pm on its project proposal.
Correction: This story previously said West Oakland lacked a full-service grocery store and omitted Mandela Foods Cooperative.
The original article was originally posted on November 10, 2015 by San Francisco Business Times.