OAKLAND, Calif. – Jack London Square peeks over the bay, a beautiful sprawling space lined with trees and upscale eateries. The park named after the famed author (his Klondike cabin was relocated to the area) is a beacon of light in a city looking for an upswing.
One of the staples of that anticipated rise is 55 Harrison St., a six-level, 172,000-square-foot property whose 110,000 square feet of offices are 90 percent leased. The building is expected to bring ample visitors to the waterfront hub as it nears completion.
Home solar-system company Sungevity Inc. is the largest tenant thus far at just under 66,000 square feet. But with the 62,000 square foot Jack London Market slated to open next year, the neighborhood is expected to spring to life.
As she sings the city’s praises, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan is confident that the 5.25-acre Jack London Square is poised to launch Oakland past San Jose and San Francisco as an attractive home for tenants. “This is going to be the center of something good,” said Quan, who has been mayor since January 2011. “It’s one of the most transit-rich sites. Walk around here, you’ve got the railroad, the ferry, 880 and Oakland’s the only city that has all five BART lines run through the city.”
Quan is banking on her city’s growing ecofriendly aspect to attract people. Oakland was recently ranked No. 5 on The New York Times’ list of “45 Places To Go in 2012.” The newspaper cited the city’s restaurants and bars, mentioning top chef Daniel Patterson’s new eatery Haven, which sits in Jack London Square. Forbes magazine also sent a shout-out to Oakland’s Uptown district recently, ranking it No. 9 on the publication’s list of “America’s Hippest Hipster Neighborhoods.”
Furthering Quan’s cause, 55 Harrison, which features the Jack London Market on its ground floor below five levels of Class A office space, nabbed a LEED Silver certification on the strength of features such as low-emissivity glass and variable-flow condenser water systems. The property boasts 50 percent Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood and materials to ensure highly recycled content.
Even more, the location is easily accessible via BART, the free B shuttle, the ferry and Amtrak. And, of course, mixed-use development is riding the crest of the sustainability wave on the theory that people can satisfy most needs in one place with multiple uses on site, thereby reducing travel.
“One of the biggest challenges was trying to get everyone’s arms wrapped around the need for such a big project,” said Steve Worthington, the lead architect on the project. “I think mixed-use is the future: Where there’s lots of collaboration between people that live, people that work and people that play in an area. More of the generations that are coming into business life today are asking for it. In many aspects mixed-use is what the future is.”
Jack London Market was originally slated to be an open-air food market featuring fresh fruits, vegetables, coffee and meat on a daily basis. But lead developer Ellis Partners had to regroup after the Alameda County Public Health Department mandated a roof because of concerns about food contamination and inherent health hazards stemming from insects. The last-minute change delayed the project. Now, with it nearing completion, there is optimism that Jack London Square will be a catalyst for downtown Oakland’s recovery.
Further bolstering the area, commercial brokerage Cassidy Turley said Oct. 3 that it has been retained by San Francisco’s Shorenstein Properties LLC to do the pre-leasing of 601 City Center, a 23-story, 597,000-square-foot Class A office development. Located on 12th Street adjacent to the BART Station, 601 City Center will be connected to Jack London Square via the B shuttle. Shorenstein plans to develop the building upon the signing of an anchor tenant. The building was designed to achieve LEED Platinum certification, the highest level.
Quan hopes to tie a new stadium for the Oakland Raiders and A’s into Jack London Square, strengthening the attractiveness of the area. “The stadium probably won’t be too far from here, within walking distance of this building,” she said with confidence, though it is far from clear whether such a stadium will come to pass. With the Golden State Warriors jettisoning across the bay in 2017, the city can ill afford to lose its remaining two professional sports franchises.
The Oakland central business district has seen a nearly 1.5 percentage point drop in vacancy to 11.8 percent since the end of 2009, along with a modest rise in Class A asking lease rates to $2.79 a foot for direct, full-service monthly lease rates. With Jack London Square bringing a spark of excitement to Oakland, it appears the area is following a credo of its famous progenitor: “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.”