385,740 SQFT Life Science Development Project Returns to Emeryville Planning Commission for Third Study Session

58Fifty Shellmound Life Sciences Tower, Emeryville, CA Ventures, Solomon Cordwell Buenz
Rendering from Solomon Cordwell Buenz

By Catherine Sweeney 

A 14-story life science tower could soon take shape in Emeryville after it returned to the Planning Commission for its third study session Thursday evening. During the third meeting, CA Ventures discussed their plans for the 58Fifty Shellmound Life Sciences Tower, which included the addition of residential use. 

The project site is located at 5850 Shellmound Way and would include the demolition of a 61,000 square-foot office building for the construction of a 385,740 square-foot research and development building with 2,300 square feet of ground floor retail space. During the meeting, the project team also discussed newly updated plans for six townhouse residential units. 

Prior to the April meeting, the project team had met with the Planning Commission for study sessions in August of 2021 and in February. 

“In February, we presented our analysis on the housing market which was reviewed by City-hired third party consultants and included that a residential-led development was not feasible on the site primarily due to specific site conditions due to asymmetry, as well as the continuing disparity between rents and rising construction costs,” Mike Lee, senior vice president of investments for CA Ventures, said. “While that analysis was received and accepted by the commission, the commission was not convinced that a lesser number of units within the base of the building was also not feasible. So at the commission’s request in the time since February, we have gone back and explored if it is possible to incorporate a handful of two-story, townhouse residential units.”

According to the new project plans, the two-level townhome units would each be approximately 1,377 square feet and will be allocated as affordable housing. The townhouse units would be located along a proposed pedestrian and bicycle pathway along the northern portion of the property, built separately from the life sciences building.  

Other changes proposed at the study session include a slight increase of research and development space by 7,650 square feet as well as the elimination of 10,000 square feet of clinic and medical office space. Proposed parking has also been reduced from 431 spaces to 409 parking spaces. 

Designs for the project come from global architecture firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz. While still in the preliminary stages of design, renderings show the tower would be clad in a mixture of aluminum and glass. A perforated metal material is also being suggested for the cladding of the garage space.  

Renderings also show potential plans would include a 15,000 square-foot amenity terrace at the fifth level and approximately 19,150 square feet of open space on the ground level in the form of a plaza. The amenity space could be shared between tenants of the future townhome buildings, but plans are still being determined. 

“These are very preliminary design drawings, so we’re just trying to show what’s possible. We’re not trying to propose any actual detailed design at this point, but you can see how these six townhouse units can have walk-up entries, lots of landscaping and a great residential character. As they line the bike lane, the lab building will sort of fade into the background above and behind them,” Lee said.

Overall, the project was largely accepted by the Planning Commission. However, several suggestions were also made in moving forward with the project, including clarification on the addition of open space and how it connects the residential portion of the project to the life sciences tower. Additionally, it was suggested that the team seek out extra residential units to meet the growing need for housing in the city. 

The project is set to return to the Planning Commission for an additional study session on May 17. 

West Coast Commercial Real Estate News