Groundbreaking: MacArthur Commons

By Sam Felsing---It was a big day for Oakland on June 21 when a ceremonial groundbreaking was held for the MacArthur Commons apartment complex. 

Designed by Ankrom Moisan Architects, the complex, which is directly adjacent to MacArthur Bart, will consist of 395 for-rent multifamily units (including many below-market-rate units) spread out across three buildings on 2.18 acres of land. It will feature a fitness center, a clubroom, and outdoor pool and spa, and a pedestrian plaza called “The Mews.”

MacArthur Commons was partially funded with union investment funds and is expected to generate 700 jobs and 1.3 million hours of work for union construction workers. 

“This project is a win, win, win,” said Andreas Cluver, secretary-treasurer of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Alameda County, which has members working on the project. Cluver, like many others at the ceremony, praised the project for its close proximity to local transit, its commitment to hiring locally, its affordable housing options, and its commitment to union labor. “It’s one of those projects that checks all the boxes,” Cluver said.

Though the apartment complex has a few financial backers, its main two proponents are Hines, a global real estate and investment development and management firm, and the AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust (BIT), a bank collective trust that uses union pension money to invest in developments that are 100 percent union-built and serviced.

“This project is not only built union, it’s funded union also…. You see, using the retirement money to invest in this and other projects is what the BIT does,” said Kathryn Lybarger of the California Labor Federation, which has member pension money invested in BIT.

“So, even though my union is not here on this site with you (MacArthur Commons workers), we, like so many other unions, believe it's smart to invest in creating your jobs for our community,” Lybarger continued.

Mayor Libby Schaaf was also on hand for the ceremonial groundbreaking. She called the apartment complex a role model for future projects, not just in Oakland, “but for cities across America. We are building smart building next to transit. We’re doing responsible building, because it is union-built and even union-financed. And we are doing the type of elegant density that makes this city the vital, exciting, urban experience that people are excited to be a part of.”

Though MacArthur Commons technically broke ground in March, it didn’t get a proper groundbreaking with city, union and investment dignitaries shoveling dirt to kick off its construction, until this past Wednesday. A Hines spokesperson did announce a new beginning for the project, however, telling attendees that workers will pour much of its mass slab foundation on Saturday, a significant milestone in its construction.

Hines expects 295 of MacArthur Commons’ units to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2018, with the rest expected to be finished by the first quarter of 2019.

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(Mayor Libby Schaaf [Center] and Other Dignitaries Breaking Ground on MacArthur Commons)

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(MacArthur Commons Complete. Picture Courtesy of Hines)