Downtown Oakland Office Tower Finally Slated for Completion

By Jordan Rosenfeld

After a nine-year pause on construction, developer Shorenstein Properties has begun construction again on the first office tower in more than a decade in downtown Oakland.

The building at 601 City Center, when complete, will span a massive 24 stories, with 600,000 square feet of office space and 9500 square feet of restaurant and retail space at street level. They are expected to complete the project in six months.

Currently construction has reached the 14th floor, and tenants may be able to move in as early as the beginning of 2019.

An affiliate of Shorenstein Properties LLC had begun construction on the site as far back as October 2008 but had to suspend work after excavation and environmental cleanup, according to Hoodline. At the time, recession and office real estate vacancies were cited as the cause.

By 2015, the only way the developer thought they could move forward was to sign “an anchor tenant.” Fast-forward to 2018, and the tower is attracting tech companies and healthcare titans. Shorenstein has already signed leases with big companies such as Blue Shield—expected to take up to 225,000 square feet--as well as Dropbox, Facebook and other high profile companies who will share the remaining space.

“As the building continues to take shape, we have seen increasing interest from both prospective tenants and Oakland residents around 601 City Center,” said Tom McDonnell, senior vice president of leasing for Shorenstein. “The city’s low downtown office vacancy rate and the building’s convenient location, parking infrastructure and proximity to BART have attracted a number of high-profile tenants, and we expect their presence will have a positive impact on the local downtown community.”

The building will certainly be attractive to its residents, with views of 12th Street in downtown Oakland, as well as of San Francisco, Marin County and the peninsula. They won’t be skimping on amenities, either, which will include electrical vehicle-charging stations, bike parking, a gym and a conference center. Interested tenants and brokers can already tour the unfinished building, though what remains of the leasing space is likely to get snapped up quickly; Oakland boasts the lowest downtown office vacancy in the county—coming in at 5.3 percent, according to CBRE Group, Inc., a commercial real estate services and investment firm.

“Every time you’ve seen a big block of space in Oakland come close to completion, it immediately gets gobbled up,” Scott Greenwood, an East Bay office broker with CBRE, told the San Francisco Business Journal. “Tenant rates are growing so fast, so if you have built space, it leases immediately.”

For those concerned about the impact of such a massive space on downtown traffic, Catherine Payne, acting development planning manager for the city of Oakland, said by email that according to the Traffic Demand Management Plan (TDM) analysis on the project -- which is intended to reduce reliance on automobiles and increase use of alternative means of transportation to and from the site -- “The project is not expected to result in significant and unavoidable impacts related to transportation.”

She adds that “Features of this particular TDM include recommendations for telecommuting and alternative work schedules, rideshare and car share plans, improvements to nearby transit stops, in addition to measures that overlap with the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Plan.”

Additionally, the building’s access to BART and the ferry landing position it to offer alternatives to driving to work.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff said the project will be a good thing for the city.

“We’re excited to bring more commercial space into Oakland on top of excellent transit. This project rings all those bells. We have the most BART stations of any city in the bay area, and the most transfer stations, so we’re really the hub of the entire BART system, which makes us a very green choice for commercial development,” said Schaff.

Schaff said that by these large corporations moving to Oakland’s downtown traffic on the Bay Bridge will lighten.

“More workers are likely to use transit and alternatives to cars when we put office space in downtown Oakland. They are served by the ferry, BART, and excellent buses. With all the residential development going on in downtown Oakland hopefully a lot of workers are going to be in a position to walk and bike to work,” Schaff said.

Schaff also praised the growing abundance of construction in the city due to projects like the Shorenstein tower.

We are excited to see all the excellent construction jobs going on and it is important that we continue to ensure these families-sustaining wages… and that construction is done with the highest quality because we’re changing the skyline of the city forever. It has to be done well and it has to be done in a way not only that the buildings are sustained but the workers who made them are in a position to sustain their families as well,” the mayor said.

Jordan Rosenfeld is a Bay Area freelance writer.

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