By Jacob Bourne
Oakland-based Ellwood Commercial Real Estate has a proposal to build a mixed-use residential project just northeast of Lake Merritt in the Lakeshore-Adams Point area. One of the two adjacent parcels that’s up for development at 500 Grand Avenue was used for a gas station from 1946 until 1991 when it shifted to a surface parking lot. The other has an existing two-story office building that would be demolished if the project receives approval. Kava Massih Architects is also involved in the planning process that began a public comment period two weeks ago, according to Pete Vollmann, planning staff member for the City.[contextly_sidebar id=”RU9kfoKuvtKQTAXeZWTikiWIMjl5sPff”]“We’re waiting for the City to approve the project and so I can’t say much until then,” said Patrick Ellwood, president, Ellwood Commercial Real Estate. “I’m not sure what next steps are ahead on the City’s end once the public comment period ends. There are no meetings scheduled yet, but I expect that we’ll know more in about a month or so.”
The City has had a vision for housing on the 0.331-acre property since 2007 when it was first categorized as a Housing Opportunity Site, a label it’s slated to maintain until 2023. The General Plan designates it as Neighborhood Center Mixed Use. The current proposal is for a six-story building reaching up to 65 feet in height with a trapezoidal shape to blend with the boundaries of the property. A 2,997 square foot retail space would share the ground floor with a resident lobby, building services and a parking garage offering 47 spaces. The five floors above are devoted to housing with a total of 40 apartment units each with one or two bedrooms ranging from 710 to 1,273 square feet.
In terms of amenities, plans indicate a 1,265 square foot roof deck, an open-air courtyard on the podium level and a bike storage room on the ground floor. Illustrations show landscaping with mature trees and trellises surrounding much of the building’s exterior as well as being incorporated into the courtyard. On the structure’s Grand Avenue facade, an aluminum and glass ground floor rests below a cedar canopy, creating a visual separation from the residential floors. Timber wall panels partially frame balconies providing aesthetic appeal.
The project is considered an urban infill development under CEQA, which qualifies it for a streamlined environmental review process. If approved at a Planning Director’s hearing and building permits secured, a 24-month construction period would ensue, potentially starting in 2017 or 2018.
“Right now the property is one of many parking lots in the Lake Merritt area, so it’s really good to see a better use for the site,” offered Alexis Pelosi, land use attorney, Pelosi Law Group. “This project has been on the books for a while and there’s been a lot of discussion about the design. It’s actually a really interesting design and I’m glad to see Oakland pushing the envelope a bit and asking more from developers. It’s something different from the usual square box.”