Oakland’s historic Kaiser Center attracts innovation in a timeless setting.
THIS ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED IN THE ‘Q’ – THE REGISTRY’S PRINT PUBLICATION – IN OCTOBER OF 2016
By Jacob Bourne[dropcap]O[/dropcap]riginally built in 1960, the Kaiser Center building at 300 Lakeside Drive in Oakland has remained an attractive destination for companies seeking leasable space in the region throughout many decades. Located on the westside of Lake Merritt, the building offers 360-degree sweeping views of Bay Area nature and constructs from its 28 floors, a timeless attraction for potential tenants. The high-rise has an adjacent five-story parking structure, which features a 3.5-acre roof garden designed by Theodore Osmundson and Associates, equipped with mature landscaping, a reflection pool and wooden bridge. Abutting the parking structure, a three-story retail building was constructed in 1963.
The building’s contemporary, mid-century modern architecture, designed by Welton Becket, possesses a signature curve and elongated windows throughout the vertical height that wash interiors with natural light. After searching San Francisco for a suitable site to build what would become his home and headquarters, Henry J. Kaiser was sold when he discovered the Lake Merritt location, and went to great lengths to erect his masterpiece. Kaiser, described as a forward-thinker, envisioned a flexible layout and design that could adapt to changing times. The Kaiser Roof Garden was incorporated to place an emphasis on wellness, a trait highly desirable by today’s office tenants.
The Swig Company, a San Francisco based real estate investment and management company bought the Kaiser Center in 2005. Current tenants include BART, University of California offices, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Energy Resources Integration, to name a few. New tenant, AECOM, moved into 120,000 square feet of recently modified space in September of 2016. Clune Construction was the general contractor for the project.
“Lake Merritt is the crown jewel of Oakland,” stated Deborah Boyer, executive vice president, The Swig Company. “The location is transit accessible. It’s part of the Lake Merritt-Uptown district. There’s so much liveliness in the area. All these things together draw tenants.”
This year, following the decline of the traditional retail sector, 60,000 square feet in the three-story mall building have been repurposed with the opening of Port Workspaces, a co-working community with several Oakland locations, which caters to a variety of start-ups and artisans. A key part of the project is the Port Kitchen, a culinary co-working space used by local food entrepreneurs. The Port Workspaces at Kaiser Center also feature a roof terrace, conference rooms, bar and lounge, event spaces, yoga studio and a scenic view of the Kaiser Roof Garden.
“It’s a quintessential redevelopment story,” explained Boyer. “It’s a pretty dramatic transformation that has drawn all types of businesses and entrepreneurs into this community. Henry Kaiser would be really happy to see it as it keeps with the legacy of not being afraid to dream big. It’s a fitting gesture to the history.”
Tenant turnover presents The Swig Company with opportunities to add building upgrades with a focus on sustainability. The building earned LEED Gold certification in 2011. Coming ahead for 2017, a building lobby renovation project by architecture firm Gensler and Plant Construction Company, is in the beginning stages of the planning process.
“It will be very transformative. What we’re creating is a space that’s respectful and in tune with the original materials of Welton Becket. The update will be truly timeless for the decades that follow. We’re all very excited about it. The Swig Company has been around for 80 years, so our assets have been held for a long time. We are a big believer in investing in our assets to meet the needs of today and tomorrow’s tenants. It will position us to continue meeting the needs of our tenants. It’s the right time to do it as Oakland has come into its own,” Boyer said.