1100 Broadway not happening anytime soon

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.

1100 Broadway, downtown Oakland

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.

Key System Building

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.

Rendering of 1100 Broadway proposal

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.

Fence at 1000 Broadway

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.

Vacant Lot

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.

15 thoughts on “1100 Broadway not happening anytime soon

  1. Ken

    I checked it out one afternoon. Good place to start planting a garden. That’s something we definitely can do in Oakland.

  2. Naomi Schiff

    I agree, Ken, and a while back mentioned it to SKS. Let’s bring up that idea again! Or at least some nice art and like V says, better fence.

  3. Frankie D

    In the early 1980′s this building site was to become “Hotel II”, a city sponsored redevelopment project which was going to compliment the new Hyatt Regency/Convention center that was under construction across the street (now Marriott). All the tenants were forced to relocate and that corner building was demolished. This resulted in the lose of a popular family run sandwich shop/deli that had been at that location since the 1890′s. The sandwich shop closed and the owners left town the building was torn down and Hotel II was never constructed. The moral of the story; never demolish a perfectly good building and displace successful businesses, until the replacement building has all its entitlements and financing in place. Otherwise, you get a vacant lot that sits in the heart of your downtown for 25 years and counting.

  4. Dave O

    It was a lot easier to ruin enterprises that worked well here than to recreate a “vibrant” middle-class replacement, especially when the middle class was rapidly shrinking.

    Planners seem to cling to the arguable successes of the past and ignore what is really going on with peak oil and other resource collapses, debt, demographics,
    etc. Sustainability should be the core of any conversation about the future of Oakland. Basic survival should displace the obsession with corporate monuments that serve the needs of few people. I vote for urban gardens. Cuba knows what happens when energy becomes scarce, and they know how to deal with it.

  5. matt

    It’s no secret that most redevelopment agencies have a torrid past. Many readers of this blog could write tomes about the injustices “redevelopment” agencies exacted upon US cities over the past 70 years. There are so many empty lots Downtown there aren’t enough farmers to make markets of them or artists to make shows out of them or in the case of 1100 Broadway direct sunlight to make a park or garden out of it. These lots need to have buildings on them filled with working and shopping people. Or heck, apartments for people to live in -fyi, Oakland’s residential rental market is very strong. Every year billions in sales tax go to neighboring towns where Oaklanders take their business because they cannot find what they need in Oakland. We need the city to bust its ass to get projects built in Oakland and now! That’s what we need to do with these lots.

  6. len raphael

    Matt, the residential rental market here is surprisingly strong. Gotta wonder how much of that demand , at least in the single family rentals, is from pot growers.

    But commercial office real estate is not doing well anywhere in the US or here. Lending in that has come to a halt with foreclosures poised to explode. The fed and certainly Oakland is in no position to influence that situation.

    if Oakland allows the conversion of unfinished office buildings or dto office district parcels to residential rental housing, it would be shooting itself in the foot because of the cost of servicing residents vs commuters. My concern is that fed money for low income rental housing will be the only money in town for the next few years, and the city is hungry for any projects to fill those empty lots.

    -len raphael

  7. OaklandAdvocate

    I am sadden with this. Oakland haven’t been able to continue/start it’s big projects. Recent example of that is the 601 City Center. If you have any news/information about that please share. We need big projects like 601 City Center, Citywalk, 1100 Broadway, and more, to continue it’s development and finish.

  8. matt

    Len, pot growers? Whatever! And your fear of affordable housing isn’t shared by me or the facts.

    Getting back to the topic and reality -we need more projects like the Fox (ones that are more lean though).


  9. len raphael

    Matt, it’s not a fear of affordable housing, it’s a conclusion that Oakland has more than it’s share of poor people and the rest of the Bay Area should be building the affordable low income housing and bearing the costs of helping poor residents.

    -len raphael

  10. livegreen

    Matt, Actually the facts bear Len out, as has been discussed before on ABO. Oakland & the CC have been planning & building far more of its allocated Low Income Affordable Housing than it has it’s Medium Income housing. That drives up costs, while simultaneously reducing the tax base used to pay for it.

    This is but one of the Oakland CC policies that drive up costs & down services (and make it less attractive) for the Middle Class.

  11. Brad

    It isn’t just the residential rental market that is influenced by pot growers — although it’s true that grow houses in residential rentals are a big problem. But the commercial rental market is also influenced by pot growers. In the last few years, there have been several fires at commercial properties that were being used for growing operations. Go to insidebayarea.com and check the archives. It’s all be reported in the paper.

  12. Max Allstadt


    Pot Growers are mainly in industrial areas and in homes they own. I’d bet that a lot of industrial landlords are staying afloat because of pot growers.

    Legalizing the growers would create a lot more safety. Stealing electricity is usually motivated not so much by greed as by paranoia about getting caught because the bill is so high.

    Also, the people who grow the best weed in this city are the most responsible. They have a long term relationship with the dispensaries, use only patients for employees, and they are in general very very risk averse.

  13. len raphael

    Max, I don’t oppose growers, I was just pointing out that some of the strong rental demand, at least for single fam houses, is coming from growers. On the balance, i support legalizing, regulating, and taxing it.

    Because grow houses increase risk of crime, and maybe fire from old wiring, growing should be restricted to certain industrial districts and not allowed in residential zoned ares, poor or rich.

    Funny thing up in the Shelter Cove area, i’ve heard that the community owned power co, which is run by the local rednecks, took the route of not reporting high power users to the govt, but effectively raising the top tier rates so high that growers subsidize everyone else.

    -len raphael

  14. matt

    I wish we could concentrate on the positive and work toward seeing things happen Downtown. Concerns about pot growers whether they be positive, negative or other isn’t a good focus. Nor is the affordable housing issue that was brought up.

    There are too many lots Downtown to temporarily fill them all with alternative uses. I think we should push ORA to get its butt in gear or organize a group to entice developers to consider Downtown. Or something like that.

  15. len raphael

    Max, applying pocketbook politics, since i am a patient, medically prescribed pot should be sales tax exempt the same as any other prescription med. the devil is in the details of that.

    - len raphael