Do you guys remember a couple of years ago how everybody wanted to build new office buildings downtown? Swig was gonna build two new skyscrapers at 20th and Webster. There was Encinal Tower. Shorenstein was going to plop down 600,000 square feet of new office space at 601 12th Street. And who could forget about 1100 Broadway?
Right now, the block between 11th and 12th on Broadway features an abandoned building and a giant empty lot. It’s depressing, and makes downtown Oakland look just terrible.
The abandoned building on the other side of the block is actually quite beautiful. It was once the headquarters for the Key System, and was so damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that now nobody can use it. It just sits there, sad and empty.
So, SKS Investments was supposed to build a 20 story building on this lot. It would have had 310,285 square feet of office space and 9,810 square feet of ground floor retail space, and also, as part of the project, rehab the Key System Building so that people could actually use it again.
New Class A office space is good. New retail space is good. Green buildings are good (it’s supposed to be LEED Platinum). Making beautiful historic buildings is good. Getting rid of hideous vacant lots on the main street in downtown Oakland is good. Also, the building was going to be really pretty.
So, this building got approved by the Planning Commission in 2007, and then in April 2008, SKS announced that they would not be starting construction anytime soon. So two years later, everybody still gets to be greeted by a vacant lot when they come out of the 12th Street BART station.
And I’m sorry to say, it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon. This afternoon, the Oakland City Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee (PDF), will consider a proposal to extend a bunch of deadlines (PDF) for building this project for as much as five years.
There’s a bunch of deadlines and fees in the proposal about deposits and money about SKS buying the parking garage and options and more deposits, which you can read about if you like (PDF), but I’m not going to get into here because I’m guessing most of you aren’t interested. The main thing is that under the proposal, SKS would have until as late as June 2014 to start construction, and April 2016 to finish.
So it isn’t like this long delay is any kind of surprise. But it still sucks. The good news, I suppose, is that SKS is still serious about building this thing. Otherwise, they wouldn’t bother doing all these negotiations with the City. But it is really sad to think we’re going to have to wait so long.
In the meantime, SKS should have to do something to make this a little less hideous.
Even something as small as just putting up a nicer fence would probably make a huge difference. Vacant lots with cheap green fences sitting downtown on top of the BART station can’t exactly be helping their or anyone else’s efforts to attract quality office tenants downtown.