11 West Partners Takes the Long View Approach to American Steel Studios Asset

American Steel Studios 11 West Partners KS Properties One Oakland Ventura Partners Commercial Industrial Arts Manufacturing West Oakland

American Steel Studios 11 West Partners KS Properties One Oakland Ventura Partners Commercial Industrial Arts Manufacturing West Oakland

By Jacob Bourne

In early November, 11 West Partners purchased American Steel Studios from KS Properties One for $29 million, with the intention of making this West Oakland industrial property a core investment for many years to come. Located at 1960 Mandela Parkway, the six-acre property has been home to a vibrant community of artists, makers and metal workers since 2006 and prides itself on providing affordable spaces to creative entrepreneurs. About 200 people currently work at this industrial center.

“We try not to buy our properties with a preset vision,” explained Gerris Wilkinson, partner at 11 West Partners. “People tend to struggle with that concept. We try to let the market determine what happens with the properties. We don’t have a specific vision right now but we’re going through the process of looking at more efficient ways to use the storage and circulation areas. We’re working to make the space safer and more dense by using more of the square footage.”

The American Steel Studios hub consists of three main structures that span about four blocks along Mandela Parkway, bisected by 20th Street. The largest warehouse, Industrial Art Spaces, at 200,000 square feet, is used by an array of tenants such as painters, blacksmiths, sculptors, engineers, fabricators, musicians and printers; this building is set to receive much of the initial focus from 11 West and property manager, Kim Edmonds of Ventura Partners. Another structure, Poplar Gallery, fronts Poplar Street, parallel to Mandala Parkway, and provides 50,000 square feet of neatly designed artists’ studio spaces evoking a more toned-down industrial feel than other buildings. North of 20th Street, Poplar Studios Spaces, a 150,000 square foot warehouse building with high ceilings sits vacant with potential plans to house more creative makers in the future. The site also contains an unused open field on the corner of Mandela, West Grand Avenue and Poplar Street, which could be open to the community in the future.

“The goal is going to be to try to see how this space can serve folks in the area and have it be a thriving component of West Oakland,” said Edmonds. “One key thing about 11 West is that they’re local folks. This is a long-term investment for them so they’re approaching this property from that perspective.”

“Our role is going to be a collaborative effort with 11 West,” she continued. “We have management experience related to spaces for artists and makers. We really want to work to make this a thriving community.”

Current tenants will continue to pay their usual rents as a strategic plan is developed to make the property economically sustainable both for the owners and occupiers. Bringing in new tenants is one way 11 West will work towards sustainability. Floor plates range in size from 500 to several thousand square feet.

“Figuring out where to set rents will be based on the long-term goal of how to best use these spaces,” said Wilkinson. “We’re not trying to make our money back in three years.”

The next step for 11 West and Ventura Partners will be to integrate American Steel Studios into the greater community of West Oakland by holding events like art shows and educational forums with local schools. For Wilkinson, transparency is a key ingredient, as many in Oakland are unaware of the diverse community of artists and makers that inhabit the premises. In the coming months he hopes the property team will work on making artwork more visible to those passing by, taking down fences and spreading the word about the wide range of activities that goes on inside.

West Coast Commercial Real Estate News