CCA Returns to Oakland Historic Campus with Reimagined Design Proposal

California College of the Arts, Berkeley, Treadwell Estate, Oakland, Macky Hall and the Carriage House, Emerald Fund, Equity Community Builders, Mithun

By Bekka Wiedenmeyer

Established in 1907 in Berkeley, California College of the Arts (CCA)⁠ has experienced a number of location changes over the decades. In 1922, the school moved from Berkeley to the Treadwell Estate in Oakland, and in the mid-90s, it opened a second campus in San Francisco. Earlier this year, CCA closed its Oakland location and merged it with its San Francisco campus. Now, CCA is onto the next chapter in its story and returning to its roots by proposing a reimagined campus at the Treadwell Estate at 5212 Broadway in Oakland. 

Through the joint efforts of San Francisco-based real estate developers Emerald Fund and Equity Community Builders, along with Seattle-based design firm Mithun, the proposed development is intended to increase affordable housing with close proximity to public transit and preserve the historic character of the site. 

The estate is currently home to a number of historic buildings, including nationally registered landmarks Macky Hall and the Carriage House, and is bounded by Broadway, Clifton Street and Coronado Avenue. Other existing structures on the site include Treadwell Hall, Martinez Hall and Founders Hall. Because a primary goal of the project is to honor the historic character of the estate, the team has proposed preserving Macky Hall and the Carriage House in all of their development options. A few additional existing structures are preserved in some of their options.

The CCA Board selected Emerald Fund and Equity Community Builders in 2017 to serve as the development team for the project, and their original design proposal was presented almost two years later toward the end of 2018. The original design included a 19-story residential tower, 35 units of affordable artist housing, artist space and a public park. 

The team iterated on this proposal after receiving feedback from the community. It was apparent to the team that common themes resonated to the public. Creativity and individuality, nature and art, and design details and thoughtful neighborhood context were important considerations to keep in mind as the team worked through their revised proposal. In summer 2021, Mithun joined the project as lead architect.

According to project documents, the team’s goals for 5212 Broadway are multifold. Honor and celebrate the legacy of the Treadwell Estate, offer housing options oriented around transit, develop buildings that respond to the character and context of the site, build a public park, preserve historic artifacts on site and focus on sustainability to reduce climate impact. 

While the team presented five design alternatives in their revised proposal, the team considers potentially three of these to be financially viable. All options exclude the original plan for a 19-story tower.

Alternative 1 proposes the new Building A structure to wrap around a central courtyard, with an amenity deck, corner step downs and a cascading building mass that follows the natural grade change of Clifton Street. Vertical visual breaks are incorporated along the Broadway facade, and a visual axis connects Macky Hall to the new building’s interior courtyard. The building’s entrance includes space for an entry plaza and event gathering. A 1.85-acre public park extends to the corners of Broadway and Coronado Avenue, with the historic wall and Macky stairs along Broadway preserved at one of the park’s entrances. Existing trees, including a heritage oak, will also be preserved with this option. Townhouses front the park and Clifton Street to activate the ground level, along with retail and commercial spaces along Broadway. A wide promenade separates Building A from Buildings B and C, which are rectangular and lay parallel to the east property line. This alternative includes plans for 462 residential units, 46 affordable units on site and 16,945 square feet of office space. 261 parking spaces will be available, and both Macky Hall and the Carriage House will be preserved. The team noted this design is the most financially feasible and maximizes housing and affordable housing. The team also noted, however, that several existing structures would need to be removed for this option to work, and thus it is the least preservational of all the options presented.

Alternative 2 proposes the same structure and features for Building A, and the park continues to extend to the corners of Broadway and Coronado. This option proposes only two new buildings, Building A and Building B across the promenade, and preserves five out of 12 existing structures on site. The Carriage House would be relocated adjacent to Building B, and the design would also preserve Macky Hall, Treadwell Hall, Martinez Hall and Founders Hall. This alternative includes plans for 335 residential units, no on-site affordable units and 63,300 square feet of office space. 226 parking spaces will be available for use. The team noted this design preserves a higher number of structures while maximizing housing, though would require the demolition of other facilities, including Martinez Annex and Simpson Studio. This plan would also require some form of subsidy in order to make it financially feasible.

Alternative 3 proposes a similar structure for Building A, which in this option is recessed at one corner to preserve the Carriage House in place of Alternative 1’s entry plaza. The park continues to extend to the corners of Broadway and Coronado. Similar to Alternative 2, this option proposes only Building A and Building B across the promenade, and preserves six out of 12 existing structures on site, including Martinez Annex. This alternative includes plans for 298 residential units, no on-site affordable units and 68,800 square feet of office space. 198 parking spaces will be available for use. While this design leaves the Carriage House in place and preserves the highest number of existing structures, the team noted demolition of facilities would still be required, as well as an additional $4 million in subsidies.

The project is currently in the formal city review process phase. The team has submitted Alternative 1 to the Planning Department for review and are hopeful the Draft Environmental Impact Report will be made available to the public later this year. Subsequently, the project will be discussed in public hearings by the Landmark Preservation Board, Planning Commission and City Council. The team will also present their proposal to the Design Review Committee for feedback and approval. The team anticipates that if the project is approved, construction will be underway from 2024 to 2026, with occupancy slated for 2027.

The development team was unavailable to provide comments for this article at the time of publication.

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