By Jacob Bourne
W12, LLC has formally proposed plans to the City of Oakland Planning and Building Department to build a mixed residential and commercial development. Working alongside VTBS Architects, BKF Engineers and TGP Inc., the developer seeks to build two structures occupying a full city block and an adjacent quarter block on the border of the Downtown and Chinatown neighborhoods. The project has been approved by the Design Review Committee and construction is expected to begin toward the end of 2017, pending full approval.
The site is located across from Lincoln Square Park and is bounded by Webster, 12th, Alice and 11th Streets. The just under two acre parcels are divided by Harrison Street with the much larger building on the northwestern side bordered by Harrison and Webster Streets. The project is subject to the Lake Merritt Station Area Plan and is a half-mile from BART.
The two seven-story buildings will reach about 87 feet in height and offer up to 416 residential units and 25,050 square feet of commercial space. The northwestern building will be the bulk of the development with 339 housing units and 23,400 square feet of ground-level commercial areas. The smaller building will only occupy about a quarter of the adjacent block offering 77 units of housing and 1,650 square feet of commercial space. Both buildings will provide loading areas for business and residents. Though the two buildings will be part of the same development, they’ll operate independently of each other with separate parking, open spaces and amenities.
“The main thing that the project is doing is adding density to this part of Oakland where it’s currently lacking,” said Donovan Ballantyne, senior designer, VTBS Architects. “Right now the block has a really desolate feel. We’re providing as much store-front space as possible. Adding commercial space will reactivate the area and people living in the building will be able to use nearby Lincoln Square Park.”
Of the 416 residential units about 40-percent will be one bedrooms, 25-percent two and three bedrooms, and 35-percent studios. In terms of commercial spaces, a spokesperson for the developer anticipates that there will be a strong mix of local tenants leasing continuous retail areas ranging in size from 1,300 square feet to 8,000 square feet. Parking totaling 317 spaces for both buildings is complemented by 288 long-term bike stalls and 26 short-term; a competitive amount vastly exceeding requirements. All parking will be hidden from view underground.
Bike repair shops, gas stoves equipped with hoods, and in-unit HVAC systems are some of the many expected amenities to be featured by the project. An open podium-level courtyard is designed to be relaxing and meditative while a 10,000 square foot roof-top area will be geared towards social gatherings. The roof top will also feature a dog park to limit impacts on neighborhood parks.
Ballantyne described extensive discussions with community members regarding plan iterations, and the project team responded to feedback with added focus to certain design elements. Red-colored accents were added along the ground-level facade to blend with Chinatown architectural styles, and local artwork will be displayed. The design along 11th Street has been simplified by reducing frame sizes at the corners. Though both buildings are similar and the same height, slight modifications to each will give a sense of uniqueness. Throughout the elevations a high degree of variation will accentuate the facade with an alternating black and white exterior, balconies and bay windows and breaks in the massing.
There are no variances for the project, and it meets all zoning requirements. A Planning Commission meeting will be held on August 3 to decide on the application.