Encinal Tower renderings

As promised, I now have fancy renderings of Encinal Tower to share with you guys, courtesy of the nice people over at SOM.











Colin suggested that a spaceship launching pad would be an equally appropriate use for the space, and to that I just have to say…huh? The difference is that nobody has any use for a spaceship launching pad, while lots and lots of people have use for high-end office space.

Regardless of the current market, we need to look to the future, and in the future people will need space. That’s a fact. Businesses have offices, and they can either put those offices in a transit hub like downtown Oakland, or they can put them out in Walnut Creek or sprawling low-rise office complexes in like, Richmond or something. If we don’t provide space for them, then they’re definitely not going to be coming here.

Downtown Oakland’s Class A office space vacancy rate is current 8.5%, which is at the low end of what’s considered healthy. (Vacancy rates dipping too low is bad for the market, because it means that companies who want to move here or move around can’t.) 8.5%, including a completely empty brand-new building, is downright shocking (and it’s worth noting that this is lower than downtown SF’s class A vacancy rate). The fact that we’re maintaining such as low vacancy rate at the same time as rents have been steadily climbing (average asking rate of $2.80/sf currently compared to $2.35/sf less than 2 years ago!) is further evidence of a strong market.

And repeated comparisons to Hoboken, a town of 40,000 people, just makes no sense to me, considering we’re closer to 420,000.

As for the issue of aesthetics – I’m particularly enamored of the spiral’s steps with the roof terraces. I’m not always a fan of SOM designs – I cannot even begin to say how hideous (not to mention vulgar) I find the new Cathedral, for example, and I thought their transbay terminal entry was super lame. But I think they did a great job with this one. I think it’s a really creative way to make use of a very oddly shaped lot. People are welcome to condemn my taste. (For reference, this is my all time favorite building, which is, BTW, oodles taller than anything we have or will ever have in Oakland, and not near anything else tall at all.)

When people talk about “dwarfing” nearby buildings – well, maybe it’s because of where I’m from, but I just don’t get it. The Houston suburb I come from has a taller building than any building in Oakland, and it’s next to our two-story shopping mall and a bunch of one story detached restaurants. Nobody complains, they like the variation. Besides, nobody’s asking to building the tallest building in Oakland in Glenview. This is downtown! It’s where tall buildings belong.

I do think I might like the building more if it were different colors. Maybe if they made the glass like, pale pink, and then all the metal wrapping around it a rich chocolate brown.

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19 thoughts on “Encinal Tower renderings

  1. Max Allstadt

    Let’s remember that SOM is a company, not an individual architect. Who’s the actual designer for Encinal Tower?

  2. Colin

    I’m open to being persuaded that this makes sense in the long run. Someone in the previous thread cited the same Class A vacancy rates, and that goes a long way towards persuading me. I’m curious, though, about how much Class A office space there is currently in this city and how much this will increase it. I assume all of the Kaiser buildings count as Class A, and the Clorox and Ask buildings as well. How much of whatever’s available isn’t anchored by a big tenant like that?

    “The Hoboken Factor” is a term that nobody here seems to use. I heard it a lot in discussions about Baltimore, once or twice with Cleveland, and think it is relevant here. It’s not about the city itself, it’s about the perception of the city. Hoboken is the butt of jokes, and when most people hear the name they automatically hear Bugs Bunny saying it. It has a reputation as dangerous and substandard. For several years in the seventies and eighties they tried to battle their reputation and become a business center, using a lot of the same arguments that people use with Oakland (it’s centrally located, it’s easier to get to downtown from there than it is from the Upper East Side, it’s charming, etc). They spent a lot of time trying to make that strategy work, first with big companies, then with smaller companies, then with pretty much anybody. Turns out that businesses don’t move to places that they think of as dangerous or sub-par. Businesses don’t move to cities outside of the actual cities where their business takes place.

    There are obvious differences between Hoboken, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Oakland. But they do share a perception issue. As a fan of all of those places I think the reputation is undeserved. All of them are working on overcoming that reputation, with different strategies and varying degrees of success. Hoboken stopped trying to attract big business and went for commuters (quite successfully); Baltimore gave away housing for a dollar and a promise to repair it and has invested heavily in the inner-harbor; Cleveland built a gigantic mall with absurdly over-priced condos in it. Jerry Brown launched one of our attempts to battle this (make a lot more housing), and the tower would represent another approach to tackling the problem.

    People I’ve mentioned this project to have all said the same thing: “Why?” I don’t think that’s an unreasonable question, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a good answer.

    Anyway, we’ll see what happens. I’m skeptical, but in spite of what some may think I do have an open mind about this. Just so long as there’s no pink involved, anyway.

  3. V Smoothe Post author

    Well, I don’t really know anything about Hoboken, but the way you describe it Colin, it sounds like one major difference would be that the long-term trend there was that commercial space just wasn’t desirable or able to attract tenants, despite the city’s efforts to market it, whereas that just hasn’t been a problem here. I don’t know why we would assume that’s going to suddenly change. The market goes up and down, obviously, and currently, I think that issues of public safety are creating a barrier to business attraction, but overall, the market has been consistently strong. Sometimes it takes a couple years (as was the case with 555 12th St.), but the buildings we do have all fill up eventually.

    Right now, downtown Oakland has 9.8 million square feet of Class A office space, and there’s another half million sf out by the airport. I didn’t get a total office square footage for Encinal Tower at the meeting (they may have mentioned it, but I didn’t write it down), but for a rough guess based on my notes, it looks like we’re talking about 27 floors of office space with an average floorplate of 32k square feet, for 864k sf total.

  4. Robert

    I actually like the cathedral, at least the sanctuary part. The support buildings are truly butt ugly. But I think that that just speaks to why the city shouldn’t be trying to control esthetics, folks aren’t going to agree on matters of taste.

    The Encinal tower does look pretty good to me, although the bottom half looks pretty bulkly from the one angle. Nice drama to it.

  5. John

    I really like this building for a number of reasons. It will make a great signature building because of the height and design. It is in an absolutely perfect location: on the Broadway spine, it is immediately next to BART; it is a short walk from the building to the Lake. At the presentation a couple of weeks ago, it was indicated that there will be some 200 bike parking spaces provided – more than what is typical. I believe this building is perfectly sited for bikes because Franklin and Webster streets are one-way with lots of lanes (even if they are in a crappy state of repair) and there are already bike lanes around the lake. The building is also a great mix of office and residential. I like it A LOT.

  6. Navigator

    I love the second rendering, it looks like Oakland is flipping San Francisco the bird. I’m all for it, it’s well deserved. Also, it kind of makes up for that hideous “Rincon One” tower overpowering the western tower of the Bay Bridge while at the same time giving the East Bay the middle finger. Encinal Tower will be a great addition to the Oakland skyline.

  7. Steve Carney

    Here’s a great factoid: SF’s business tax rate for office headquarters is 12 TIMES more than Oakland’s: $15 per $1,000 of payroll salary versus $1.20 per $1,000. In mentioning this, I should also add that SF’s business taxes are MUCH MUCH higher than all nearby cities, not just Oakland’s.

    Re amount of office space, the number I heard at the community meeting was 595,000 sf.

    I generally support this project, but here are my complaints: not enough retail on the bottom floor, just a little nook in the left corner. Rest of the first floor is dedicated to lobby and office. They emphasize that the ground floor of the adjacent Tapscot building will be completely ground floor retail, and maybe the other 3 floors as well. Each floor of the Tapscot is about 8,000sf (department store?).

    A plaza or some other type of ground level open space (think Rockefeller Center in NY) would make the site a tourist attraction and an icon, but this would only be possible if some of the other buildings on the square block were leveled, which most would argue is not feasible. However, if the powers-that-be pushed hard for something like this, it could happen.

    There should also be a restaurant on the top floor or at least an observation deck. tallest building in Oakland and no member of the public can go to the top and look at the view???

    I also have issues with the building skin (all glass and metal), but I still hope this project goes forward. Even with no alterations, the project, as proposed, would be way better than no project at all on that site.

  8. V Smoothe Post author

    I hate office building plazas! They depress me and ruin the feeling of the street and are incredibly unpleasant to walk past. Just think about how yucky it feels to walk by 555 12th. St. I would hate for them to do that to my street! Also, I don’t know where that would go anyway. What are they gonna do, tear down the World Savings Tower? The supercomputer?

    I’ll get you guys real answers for the questions being asked next week when I’m back from vacation (my internet access here is pretty limited), but just quickly. Kaiser has tons of space scattered all over downtown, but I wouldn’t want to guess just how much, I believe Clorox has their whole building, though I’m not 100%, and Ask isn’t a particularly big holder – I think they only have like 2 floors of 555, Matson’s got more than that (or did when I worked there). I think the biggest tenants downtown after Kaiser are BART and APL, though again, this is just from my head, I haven’t checked yet.

  9. Max Allstadt

    There are a few (rare) good office building plazas. Basically the only way to do it right is anathema to most corporate sensibilities anyway. The conflict is that the corporate mentality says “mine!” when the only way to make a plaza work is to say “ours!”.

    Ground level retail is the key, along with a strong anchoring civic space. Rockefeller plaza has room for an ice rink and a mall. Encinal simply doesn’t have the space.

  10. Navigator

    I like Steve’s ideas. A plaza and an observation deck should be considered. The building would have incredible views at well over 700 feet.

  11. dto510

    Yeah, I don’t like corporate plazas either, and I can’t think of any successful ones in Oakland, except maybe 1111 Broadway. Between the caffeine and nicotine addicts, it’s pretty busy.

  12. TKO

    hey v, thanks for writing continuously about things we give a shit about.

    this tower looks like a penis but they all do. oakland finally gets it up?

    oakland is the center of the bay. it will improve. i approve the tower, if they can make it a place where people like to be on street level. and what attracts people? other people!