Long-Sought Mixed-Use Project Would Add to West Oakland Revival

West Oakland, 500 Kirkham, East Bay, Bay Area, West Oakland Development Group LLC, West Oakland Specific Plan, Humphreys & Partners, Lampwork Lofts

West Oakland, 500 Kirkham, East Bay, Bay Area, West Oakland Development Group LLC, West Oakland Specific Plan, Humphreys & Partners, Lampwork Lofts

By Neil Gonzales

After years in planning limbo, a mixed-use project near the West Oakland BART station looks to gain traction in this increasingly developing neighborhood.

The proposed development at 500 Kirkham St. has been part of a community vision going back 20 years, project leader Jabari Herbert said. To see it finally happen “would be tremendous.”

The project by Herbert’s West Oakland Development Group LLC has gone through various design permutations over time with the latest proposal garnering unanimous approval from the city Planning Commission on April 20.

So the project appears in good shape to continue through the city planning pipeline and break ground this year if not next.

“I think it’s a good project for the site and surrounding area,” city Planner Mike Rivera said. “It would be one of the first projects in the West Oakland Specific Plan to come alive.”

That city plan calls for a mix of development that provides high-density housing accompanied by retail and commercial spaces along a transit corridor, Rivera said.

The Kirkham project fits that bill as it would build a structure up to eight stories high just a block from BART with 417 residential units—either condominiums or rentals; 22,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space; 6,000 square feet for office or other commercial uses on the third floor; a two-story parking garage; and a dog park, Rivera said.

A recent California Environmental Quality Act report from the city also concluded that the project is consistent with the development density and land-use characteristics established in the specific plan. In addition, the report said, the project would not result in significant environmental consequences given mitigation measures.

The latest design is trimmed down from previous concepts, including proposals last year that sought a building reaching as high as 17 stories and featuring up to 572 units. The project’s architect is Dallas-based Humphreys & Partners.

Although the project seems poised to proceed, it still faces some challenges. Financing remains unclear though Herbert said funding would be raised through private capital, equity and debt. He did not give an estimated total project cost.

Herbert’s group is also still working to purchase the project site from its current owner Caltrans, Rivera said.

But if things go accordingly, the project would just add to the increased development activity in a community historically underserved but rich in African-American culture and activism.

The project would help the neighborhood become a destination area while still paying homage to its history, said Herbert, former executive director of the nonprofit Alliance for West Oakland Development.

Last year, West Oakland saw the opening of Lampwork Lofts, a $25 million transformation of a century-old historic factory into an apartment complex by Oakland-based developer Madison Park Financial Corp.

Moreover, Oakland-based food organization People’s Community Market has proposed bringing a 15,000-square-foot grocery store to the neighborhood while China Harbour Engineering Co. Ltd. has eyed a retail-and-office project at the BART station.

“Areas near transit are driving an influx of new residents into the city who want to live near transportation and downtown,” Rivera said. In that regard, “West Oakland is becoming a new trend and an attraction for new development.”

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