By Meghan Hall
The arduous planning and approvals process has proven to be more complicated than originally expected for Danville, Calif., developer and private equity firm Behring Companies. A development site that the company owns in Oakland located at 1900 Broadway is situated at the center of city’s growing, urban downtown. Also, its proximity to popular restaurants and entertainment venues in Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood makes the site ideal for development.
The project site is also about a mile from Interstates 908 and 580, while the 19th Street BART Station and Alameda-Contra Costa (AC) Transit bus stop are located directly in front of the proposed project site. However, the area’s rapid growth has also prompted the proposed plans to change several times over the course of the last several years, delaying construction and greatly prolonging the approvals process.
The original developer, Seth Hamalian of Mission Bay Development Group, submitted his preliminary proposal in 2015, and the development included a 33-story, 330 foot-tall high rise with 345 residential units, 4,000 square feet of retail space and 6,000 square feet of restaurant space. The proposal was approved in August of 2015 by the Oakland Planning Commission, which also included the refurbishment of the Tapscott Building, a four-story historic building located right next to the project site on Broadway.
Despite the project’s initial approval, however, Hamalian decided to amend the development less than a year later and in 2016 submitted a revised application that increased the building’s height by three stories and added 106 additional residential units to the project. Hamalian also included office space in the revised proposal, which was not part of the 2015 plans. The commercial office space was planned as part of the renovation of the Taspcott Building, which in the new iteration of the development saw additional 25,000 square feet added to the plans. 1,000 square feet of retail space was added, as well, as was 14,000 square feet of restaurant space. In March 2016, the City again gave the developer green light to move forward with the expanded plans.
It would be nearly two more long years before yet another round of revisions would be submitted to the City of Oakland, which showed considerable changes to the exterior design of the tower. Behring Companies, which had since taken over the development, sought to add two additional stories to the building, increasing its height by 27 feet. Plans also show that the amount of office space has been increased to yet again, this time to 85,000 square feet, of which 27,000 would be located in the Tapscott Building. The number of apartment units was increased slightly, as well, to 452, while the 338 parking spaces included in the 2016 plans had been reduced to 171 below grade spaces. The apartments are planned to be a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units. As a result, the project, which was initially expected to break ground in 2016 is finally just gaining traction in its third round of approvals.
Behring had agreed to purchase the site in partnership with Lincoln Property company, according to Rob Zirkle, founder and principal of Brick, Inc., the project’s original architect. The agreement between Behring and Hamalian to purchase the property was filed in November of 2017, and according to Behring’s website, it is currently in escrow. The firm is currently seeking around $80 million in EB-5 Investments for the project. EB-5, a federal funding program, allows foreigners to invest $500,000 into a development project and in return of receive permanent residency in the United States, should the project be successful.
The new owners are also working together on redesigning the project. Original designs included a lush rooftop garden, expansive floor-to-ceiling windows and restoring the Tapscott Building’s original façade. To what extent the building was redesigned is unclear, since Hamalian and Behring Companies did not return The Registry’s request for comment.
Neil Gray, the Oakland City Planner working on the project, would not comment on the development’s history or elaborate on why it has taken so long for the both developers to solidify their plans. When asked about a timeline for the completion of the 1900 Broadway project, Gray was only willing to give the project’s status for the immediate next step: project approval.
The City of Oakland Planning Commission went onto approve the project 5-0 on June 20, 2017; only Adhi Nagraj, the planning commission chair, and Clark Manus, another commissioner, were not present.
According to City documents, Behring Companies would need to apply for a Conditional Use Permit, as the new development will be greater than 200,000 square feet and will exceed 250 feet in height. Updated City documents also state that construction is slated to begin sometime during 2019 and continue through 2020, but a specific timeline was not given.