Construction Progress, Cultural Buildings, East Bay, Oakland

Downtown Oakland Construction: 10-25-2007

There are some exciting construction projects rising in downtown Oakland these days, since many of the projects that were initially proposed in response to Jerry Brown’s 10K downtown revitalization plan are finally emerging from the planning process and becoming a reality. This post will attempt to cover some of the more high profile downtown projects, and a couple smaller ones as well. As usual, full sized versions of all these images are hosted on my Flickr account, so just click through any image for the larger version.

Where else could I start this post but with Uptown? For many years, the City of Oakland has been trying to redevelop this substantial chunk of land, a triangular region bounded by Telegraph and San Pablo, located south of 20th Street and north of City Center — but the area stubbornly resisted any sort of development. In some sense, both the trials and successes of downtown Oakland’s revitalization are reflected in the ebb and flow of Uptown; downtown can never be fully revitalized unless Uptown is vibrant. The city went through a few different plans for Uptown at different times — including, at one point, a possible new ballpark for the Oakland A’s — but ended up settling on a mixed-use development, a choice that is well-suited to this highly transit-oriented location, just steps from the 19th Street BART station and a slew of bus lines. Given the excellent location, I would have preferred to see a much denser development than the one which is being constructed, but it is actually a relief to see that this chunk of land, downtown’s largest hole, is at long last being given new life.

The Uptown project, carried out by Forest City, will be built in phases. The first phase consists of 9,000 square feet of retail and 665 rental units in a few low- to mid-rise buildings. Check out the website for a rendering, and here are a few photos, taken from different corners of the project site, depicting the current state of construction:


100 Grand Avenue, at the corner of Webster, will be a new high-rise addition to the Valdez section of downtown, just a few blocks from the large Uptown development. The structure will have a few terraced heights to reduce bulk, but it will include a 22-story tower and will add 238 rental units and 5,415 square feet of retail space to the emerging Uptown area. The left image below is a photo of the poster rendering hanging at the construction site, and the right picture shows the construction:


Left image is a photo of a rendering from Essex Property Trust.

The first phase of Broadway Grand adds 132 units and 22,000 square feet of retail to the northern edge of downtown, once again quite close to both 100 Grand and the centerpiece Uptown project. Phase 2 is planned to add 367 units and 27,700 square feet of retail to the area:


The next project, nine-story 2100 Franklin, is downtown Oakland’s first office construction since 555 City Center was completed in 2002. The building is connected to existing the 2101 Webster building, and the two buildings together form “Center 21”. 2100 Franklin has a long, narrow shape because of the constraints of the site. The curved blue glass shows distorted reflections of nearby buildings on Lake Merritt:


The Ellington, rising on Broadway between 2nd and 3rd Streets, will add 134 units and 11,197 square feet of retail to the Jack London Square area. The developers of this project, Molasky Pacific, are also planning another high-rise next to 100 Grand. The left image below is the rendering:


Left image courtesy Molasky Pacific Property.

Located along Broadway between 6th and 7th Streets at the edge of Chinatown, the new 8 Orchids building adds 157 units in 11 stories, along with 6,400 square feet of retail. The front of the building faces 7th Street (top left picture below), with the bulk of the building shifted towards Broadway (top right picture below). The unfortunate result of this design is that the building turns its back on the intersection of 7th and Broadway (bottom picture below):


There are also a few projects being constructed in Old Oakland/City Center area. 901 Jefferson is a 75-unit mixed use building. The left image is a rendering, and the right image depicts the current state of construction:


Left image courtesy Pyatok Architects.

Right next to 901 Jefferson is Market Square, a two-phased project that adds 202 housing units in the block bounded by Clay, Jefferson, 8th, and 9th Streets. The first phase was completed some time ago, but the second phase of construction is nearing completion. Some variation in color and features helps to mitigate the monotony that is often a problem in these “master planned” developments:


The 7-story City Walk project would add 252 units of housing to the T-10 block of City Center, in the shadow of the Federal Building twin towers,


but a few weeks ago, the Business Times reported that Olson Company, City Walk’s developer, has placed a construction freeze on the project.

Although these construction progress reports tend to focus on housing and office construction, I must mention two major cultural buildings set to open downtown in the next couple of years. One of these buildings is the Cathedral of Christ the Light, a basket-shaped structure rising on the shores of Lake Merritt, in front of the Ordway Building at the corner of Grand and Harrison. Saint Francis de Sales, a building dating from 1893, formerly served as the cathedral for the Oakland Diocese, until that structure was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The church was subsequently demolished, because the diocese could not afford to restore the structure and carry out the necessary seismic updates. The Cathedral of Christ the Light, currently under construction, is the replacement cathedral:


When I first saw renderings of this cathedral, I was pleased to see that a more contemporary structure would soon be gracing the shores of Lake Merritt, the curve of the building a nice foil to the nearby Kaiser Center. I was equally excited to finally see the last of that parking lot in front of Ordway. Now that the building is going up, though, I’m not quite as convinced. Perhaps its magic can only be unlocked upon completion. An office or residential tower might have been more appropriate for this location, but this cathedral will be an interesting addition.

The second cultural building to mention here is the landmark Fox Theater. Originally opened in 1929, this theater has been dormant since 1963, but it is finally set to reopen, hopefully next year. The theater is in the process of being restored to its former glory:


The theater building will also house the Oakland School for the Arts. In addition, a new building (Fox Courts) with 80 units of affordable housing and 4,800 square feet of retail will be built behind the theater. Here is a rendering of that project:


Image courtesy Resources for Community Development.

It is nothing short of criminal that this gorgeous theater has sat unused for decades, but we are lucky that it has not suffered the fate of so many other old theaters, i.e. demolition. When it reopens, this jewel of the Uptown District will fill a crucial hole and add a new touch of vitality to the neighborhood.



13 thoughts on “Downtown Oakland Construction: 10-25-2007

  1. The Cathedral itself is pretty cool. The building street face is awful. So I wasn’t surprised that SOM designed the thing. Architects that don’t do the little important urbanism details drive me nuts. Concrete facing the Lake. Looks like they got some help from Le Corbusier. Yuck.

    Posted by The Overhead Wire | 25 October 2007, 11:07 am
  2. The concrete wall is definitely the big problem. The devil is in the details. As for the building, it’s not that I dislike it, but it doesn’t complement its surroundings quite as I thought it was going to. Probably better to wait till it’s done though, and give it some time. :)

    Posted by Eric | 25 October 2007, 11:54 am
  3. The cathedral suffers like many similar attempts by architects before who put an amazing form on top of a rather ugly base structure. The Sydney Opera House is still an interesting design, but has a horrible concrete and steel box facing the bay that it sits on, and the most visited building no the planet, the Bahai Temple in India, is an amazing piece of architecture sitting on top of a rather ordinary brick structure. I still like the Cathedral, but wish they could have done something better facing the lake. I still like the cathedral however and cannot wait to see it, especially at night.

    Posted by Morgan | 27 October 2007, 6:30 am
  4. I, too, am looking forward to seeing it at night. It should be quite lovely with the necklace of lights around Lake Merritt.

    Posted by Eric | 27 October 2007, 3:58 pm
  5. I hate the new Cathedral. The wall on the street is horrible, and I find the structure incredibly vulgar.

    Posted by V Smoothe | 14 November 2007, 12:01 pm
  6. Sounds like we have the full range of reactions to the Cathedral, as expected. The street wall is awful.

    Posted by Eric | 14 November 2007, 12:05 pm
  7. Perhaps it would help to think of the concrete as a stage on which the building stars. You wouldn’t want the stage to out-stage the star would you.
    Then again church or not, flat blank space foot traffic level in an urban environment…Sounds like um…an unsanctioned urban art magnet.

    Posted by dave | 15 November 2007, 1:11 am
  8. I don’t see any variety of reaction to the base of this building – it *is* awful, like they have some dungeon or block house down there. Whoever let this through at the planning commission needs to have their heads examined… But the saving grace should be that as Dave pointed out, some ad-hoc “urban art” will soon brighten up those concrete slabs. After a few months of chasing away graffiti they may be inspired to cover it with tile, slate, planting or some other treatment to hide its ugliness.

    Posted by Moschops | 17 July 2008, 2:21 pm
  9. There should be a streetcar line or two built around downtown and Lake Merritt. This will add great appeal since at present there is not an attractive transit option connecting all the neighborhoods. In Portland there has been BILLIONS of dollars privately invested in commerce and residence around the new streetcar. Oakland could do even better if they had the will because the city was literally built for and around streetcars.

    Posted by Will | 4 October 2009, 5:17 am


  1. Pingback: Watching Uptown Transform « Living in the O - 9 November 2007

  2. Pingback: A Fight Over the Secret Garden « Transbay Blog - 28 November 2007

  3. Pingback: Checking In On Downtown Oakland Projects: 3-21-2008 « Transbay Blog - 21 March 2008

  4. Pingback: » Oakland developments - 16 July 2008

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