By Meghan Hall
Signature Development Group has been on a two-decades long quest to transform the Oakland waterfront, transforming it form a heavily-used industrial parcel into a mixed-use waterfront district. At the end of February, the development firm broke ground on an eight-story, 371-unit residential project on a part of the property referred to as Parcel G. The groundbreaking brings Signature Development Group and Oakland citizens one step closer to realizing its full vision for Brooklyn Basin.
“The guiding vision there was to take an otherwise out-of-use former industrial area and reunite it with the city,” said Signature Development Group’s Founder and President Mike Ghielmetti. “…Between industry and freeway and railroads, the city was largely cut off from its waterfront; we wanted to create in essence, a new district, a new neighborhood in Oakland.”
Located at 845 Embarcadero, the project is designed by TCA Architects. The development will also feature a fitness center, club house, large outdoor courtyard, and roof deck with views of the San Francisco Bay. 31,000 square feet of retail, called “The Market” is also planned for the Parcel G site. In March, Signature Development Group procured $130 million in construction financing for the development.
The building is expected to be completed by 2023 and is the second largest housing project to be built by Signature within the community. Another section of housing, a 241-unit luxury apartment building called The Orion, opened in July of 2019. According to Signature Development Group, the property is fully occupied and has been well received.
On Parcel F, nonprofit housing developer Midpen completed construction on 165-units. Last year, the developer broke ground on an additional 300 apartments that will be brought to market during the summer of 2022. Other parcels—sold off to developers—have also kicked off construction. Zarison and Essex Trust are working to build 241 units on Parcel C, to be delivered in October. Anton Development will develop Parcel D, entitled for 232 units. SRM Development and Cityview will develop Parcel E, entitled for 196 assisted living units, and Parcel J, entitled for 378 multifamily units. The development of Parcel J is expected to begin this year.
“There’s lots of great activity,” noted Ghielmetti of the development’s construction momentum.
The larger Brooklyn Basin development was initially conceived in 2001, and has come to fruition through years of collaborating with community partners, urban planners and government officials. In addition to the 3,100 residential units, the community will feature 200,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space and 32 acres of parks and public open space. Signature Development Group ultimately decided to name the master planned community after the originally city of Brooklyn, Calif., that was ultimately annexed by the City of Oakland in the early 1870s.
“The result was a master plan design that respects the environment, supports the local economy, and serves the needs of the community,” states Signature Development on its website. “The streets of Brooklyn Basin are configured and designed to provide direct pedestrian and visual pathways between the city and the waterfront, giving Oaklanders access to their shore.”
For Signature Development, including green space in the project was pivotal. Just this month, the project’s Phase Two parks were completed, following on the heels of the Township Commons Park that opened to the public in the fall of last year. The parks each have their own distinct features and water views, offer playgrounds and green spaces, as well as areas for open-air markets, concerts and festivals.
“The single and best feature is the acreage of new waterfront parks, on a scale bigger than Marina Green in San Francisco,” said Ghielmetti. “…It’s a huge amenity.”
Many of the units within Brooklyn Basin were delivered or are beginning construction at a time where property fundamentals are in question as a result of the recent market correction. However, after 20 years of planning and other recessions, Signature Development is confident in the future of Brooklyn Basin’s long-term success.
“We believe in the Bay Area; we believe in the job market here, the companies, the innovation, the research institutions,” said Ghielmetti. “…We believe in the weather, the diversity…We’re big believers in Oakland.”
Ghielmetti continued, adding, “Brooklyn Basin will be built out over a number of years, so we have to be optimistic about the area, and we are.”