The tallest building in Oakland! No, a new one.

OMG, folks. I know I promised to write about crime like a week ago, and I will, soon, I swear. I was going to do it today, but I am just way too excited right now to blog about anything but Encinal Tower.

At a whopping 715 feet, Encinal Tower would be by far the tallest building in Oakland, dwarfing our current record holder, the 404 foot tall Ordway Building. It’s so funny – remember when Emerald Views was first proposed, everyone was all upset (or excited) about it being the tallest building in Oakland? Now we actually have three taller buildings going through the planning process. Crazy. It would also, interestingly enough, be basically the tallest building we’ll ever have, since apparently, even though the new proposed CBD zoning code would allow unlimited heights in Area 1, the FAA won’t. Who knew.

Anyway, Peter Wang wants to tear down Gold Tooth Master and replace it with this:



OMG, OMG, OMG, HOW AWESOME IS IT? DON’T YOU LOVE IT!?!?!?

What’s that? You want more pictures? I apologize for the lame images right now – I hope to have nice renderings soon and when I get them I will replace my sad photos with something better.



Have I mentioned yet that I love it?

Okay, settling down. Let’s see…this building would sit between Broadway and Franklin (and have entrances on both streets) and between 19th and 20th. So on Broadway, it would be between the World Savings Tower and the historic Tapscott building, the abandoned 4 story brick building on the corner of 19th and Broadway, which I affectionally refer to as the Teen Pressure building, after the bizarre dioramas warning about “DRUGS! STDS! TEEN PRESSURE!” that filled up all the ground floor windows and I used to always stare at while waiting for the bus. (The dioramas disappeared a while ago. I miss them.)

What else? The building would have a gigantic lobby (60 feet!) featuring a huge commissioned piece of art, then the majority of the building would be office space (floorplates averaging 32,000 sf) with terraces along the south face of the building on each floor. Then then top 22 floors of the building would be residential, right now they’re saying one and two bedroom units, and 10 per floor. ALSO DID YOU SEE IT? ISN’T IT GORGEOUS?

Nobody’s going to accuse this building of looking like a Days Inn from Ohio!

Another reason I like the project, aside from the fact that it just looks SUPER COOL, is that it will serve as an excellent anchor for what I think we should be looking at as our prime future downtown development corridor, 20th Street. I’ve never understood why people go on and on about concentrating future building along the “Broadway spine.” Have they not noticed that Broadway is already built?

20th Street, from Broadway to the Lake, on the other hand, is totally primed for development. One, it sucks. Two, it’s on top of BART and tons of bus lines. Three, it’s huge. And it’s like, the most pathetic street in Oakland! I mean, I walk down 20th now, with those one story banks and giant surface parking lot and that hideous Nurses Association building, and I want to cry. Yet for some bizarre reason, whenever I talk about we should look at 20th Street as the best spot for future high intensity development downtown, people look at me like I have antennae coming out of my head or something. But this on one end and the new Swig buildings will bookend the street so perfectly, and then maybe other people will see what I see.

Oh, and as part of the project, they’re going to restore the Tapscott building. One less abandoned building downtown, hooray! Possible uses suggested at the meeting included retail with offices on top, a multi-story restaurant or bar, or maybe a boutique hotel.

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42 thoughts on “The tallest building in Oakland! No, a new one.

  1. jarichmond

    Wow! It would certainly be nice for us to get some interesting new architecture on this side of the bay. I heard on KTVU a couple days ago that they were proposing the tallest building in Oakland for that block, but they didn’t have any pictures of it!

  2. Aaron Priven

    I don’t get the attraction. It looks like an airport terminal tilted on its edge.

    Having said that, it’s a great place for a nicely big new building and putting the Tapscott Building to use sounds like a great idea.

  3. Colin

    But if they tear down da grill master, where I’m going to get my teeth done?

    I don’t know that Oakland needs a 715′ tower. We’re not a big city, and pretending to be always seems to bite us in the ass. Is there demand for this? Aren’t condo sales in the tank in Uptown right now? Is there a demand for more office space? Does having this building somehow make up for the fact that it’s going to dwarf everything in its vicinity?

    What are the pluses, here? I get that you like the way it looks, but it seems like we should get plans ready for our spaceship launching pad first because that’d be just as useful and a lot more exciting.

  4. dto510

    Coin, Oakland is a pretty big city. Many cities smaller than us have significantly taller buildings. Just because there are shorter buildings nearby doesn’t mean that tall buildings are bad – “dwarfing” a structure is an aesthetic issue not shared by everyone and aesthetics pale in comparison to the employment and tax benefits of development. The General Plan explicitly calls for “the construction of taller buildings” downtown. Why do we have to go over this every time anyone wants to build anything? This is only one of four skyscraper proposals making their way through the process: it’s time to get used to high-rises.

    Just because the condo market is down doesn’t mean that Oakland should never build housing ever again. There is enormous demand for office space in the Bay Area. If the investors want to invest their money on speculative development, critics shouldn’t assume to know better what they should do with their own money.

  5. TheBoss

    I think the units would sell quite well. The simple reason is Bart access. Residents can essentially live in San Francisco but at a significantly reduced cost.

    I’ve long seen this as the key path to Oakland’s gentrification — marketing its Bart access as the direct corridor to San Francisco that it is.

    Same goes for office space. There’s no reason a person who lives in San Francisco or Contra Costa couldn’t easily commute in to this building.

  6. Carrie

    This is awesome.

    Minor correction, though: he wants to tear down Gold TEETH Master. Gold TOOTH Master is in East Oakland. No idea if they are affiliated.

  7. Colin

    tko510, I’m not opposed to sky scrapers or development per se, I’m opposed to stupid decisions that have lasting impacts. And I’m open to being persuaded that this is a good idea – I’m not an expert by any measure, and if there is a market demand then it’s worth pursuing.

    But every time I think about development in Oakland, I think about the budget-Christo building at 14th and Jackson, or the hole at MacArthur and Wesley – 2 construction projects gone awry that I see every day. I don’t think that those are direct comparisons to this proposal, but I do think that they show the any-construction-is-good construction idea is bogus, in no small part because of how the city handles them. While I don’t know the specifics on either, I would bet that they were both offered a lot of “incentives” based on the idea that the city would get tax revenues once they were completed. Didn’t work out that way. Might never. So the promised benefits of both didn’t come to fruition.

    I’m not suggesting that because condo sales are down that we shouldn’t build housing – that would be as stupid as arguing that building big things is always smart, something I won’t accuse you of. But right now we’ve got a lot of unsold condo property in that neighborhood and significantly more on the way (not to mention the whole Oak to 9th proposal, the terminal development, and whatever others are on their way right now). If a portion of this property is dedicated to condos it would be naive not to take a realistic look at the market – you know the financiers will. Is there a solid argument that this market has a chance of improving by the time these units go on sale?

    Is the available office space in Oakland not rented because of the space or because of Oakland? Or is it a mix of the two? Would a persuasively awesome building overcome the Hoboken factor (a very nice city with extremely affordable real estate that has failed to attract business away from NYC because of its Oakland-like reputation)? I’m asking because I don’t know, and I don’t think it’s a no-brainer.

    BART access is a great plus, and I know a few people who work a few blocks from this building and live outside of Oakland. They love their commute. Going into SF can be a little cramped, but that’s a solvable problem.

    I’m interested in why people think this is a good idea. I’m not seeing the pluses.

  8. dto510

    Let me just address some of misconceptions you seem to have, Colin. The downtown Class A office market is extremely tight and there were no large floorplates available last time I checked. That’s why this is only one of five office highrises recently proposed or approved.

    There are very few unsold condos on the market in Uptown, and there aren’t all that many condos on the way. It would be years before this building is complete, anyway. And there is no theoretical limit on the number of condos than can be built in the region, as you imply.

    Oakland hasn’t offered incentives to housing developers in many years – the Madison Lofts was the victim of construction defects and actually had people living in it before it was condemned. Is an unfinished building really much worse than the gas station it replaced? There are countless examples of successful neighborhood revitalization as a result of housing construction downtown, like Uptown and Old Oakland. The Encinal site is a parking lot, abandoned building used as a parking lot, and really crappy retail building.

    Why is your look at the market more “realistic” than that of those who actually have money in the project? Frankly, I’m somewhat offended that your view of downtown is so grim (and also ill-informed) that you think the city should prevent people from making an investment that follows the goals of the General Plan.

  9. dto510

    Whoops, I totally forgot about the new Class A office building that’s completely empty. Well, before that things were tight with the high-end skyscrapers. Center 21 will fill up eventually, and so will the Encinal Tower. If supply is truly expanding faster than demand, prices will go down and then there’s more office space for nonprofits and charities! It’s really not the public’s problem if investors lose money.

  10. Colin

    Whoops, you totally did. That’s a tiny building comparatively, too. It may well fill up soon – I hope so because I want it to succeed. But since that has been hard to fill, you’ve got to admit there’s a good reason to take a look at the reality of the market before you start chanting DRILL BABY DRILL.

    As far as condos go, this is from the article linked to in this post:
    “Forest City completed its 665-unit Uptown rental project and has plans to add another 350 residential units in the next two years. Avant Housing, a partnership between San Francisco firms AGI Capital and TMG Partners, is looking to build up to 200 housing units…”

    Walk a block down 20th and you’re at a HUGE development of condos that haven’t come on the market yet. Or, go north to Broadway and Grand, where there are several about to come on the market and some that have been taken off to protect market value. I’m not sure what your standard for “very few” and “not that many” is, but I look around and I see a lot. There will be a significant period of time involved in getting this project built, and the market will change, so there might be solid demand for 220 more units of high-end housing projected for when it’s completed, but it’s unrealistic to say we should just build and damn the cry babies who don’t jump on the wagon.

    We can build a billion new condos, it’s true. But that doesn’t mean that they can sell, or that it’s a smart idea.

    If my view of downtown is “grim” as you suggest, it’s because I’m tired of seeing overly ambitious projects taken on by this city only to see them fail to deliver. If you have anything other than condescension as an argument for why my suspicions are misplaced, I’m all ears. But building the biggest tower we can isn’t necessarily the best way to boost Oakland.

    You also seem to believe that the only money involved in developing these properties is from developers. If you seriously believe that there won’t be any incentives tossed their way by the city you’re delusional. If you honestly believe that incentives won’t be thrown at different companies considering moving in you’ve never read this blog.

    Would it not make more sense to develop a smaller building of Class A office space? Is there really a huge demand that will overcome the Hoboken factor? I’m asking. To me this seems like trying to run before we walk, but I’m fully open to being persuaded that this project shows great foresight into how the bay area is going to develop over the next dozen years. And it is definitely a project that has to be judged in the long term.

  11. dto510

    The city isn’t taking on an overly ambitious project, Encinal Properties is. I don’t see the connection between the public and the finances of this project. There are no incentives the city can give that cost real money since this isn’t a redevelopment agency project. The drilling analogy is far-fetched. We’re talking about allowing someone to do what our policies encourage, not putting up our own money or taking any public risks, or risking the environment – unless that’s what you really think. If you don’t like skyscrapers, just say so, don’t argue about someone else’s finances. Besides, this project isn’t as ambitious as you seem to think, there are several similar projects in planning in San Francisco and Oakland.

    All the buildings you mentioned are apartments, not condos. There are only two small projects currently selling condos in Uptown, totaling 32 units and some have already been sold. The big building under construction on Grand is apartments.

  12. Max Allstadt

    It’s a decent design, but I know that the massing of the lower part will end up being contentious. From certain angles, it looks rather thick, and the nautilus only offers variation in morphology from one view angle.

    SOM is known in the architectural world not for innovation, but for quality, reliable execution of large scale projects. Their other project in Oakland, the Cathedral of Christ the Light isn’t exactly an outstanding design. We could have had a Calatrava!

    SOM is also know for being powerful and politically savvy. It is the only publicly traded architectural firm. Their entry in the competition to redesign the World Trade Center was embarrassingly boring, so they pulled out at the last minute. By quitting, they didn’t “lose” which would have cause a scandal, because… They later used clout to get the job to build the Freedom Tower after rival Daniel Liebeskind won the competition for a master design.

    We have a proposal for B+ Architecture in a town full of C- buildings. I can’t be as ecstatic as V about it, but it’s pretty damn cool. I also expect another revision or two before it gets going. And I really do hope it gets going.

    Here’s what I like:

    The unfurling nautilus has opportunities for awesome terraces high above the city. Please reserve some of these for something other than private homes and offices. Restaurants! Public space of some sort. Not all, just some.

    The scale would make it visible from all over the bay and would anchor our skyline.

    The location within the CBD encourages development to move north across Grand after it is complete.

    The “comma” floor plans at lower levels lead to a wide variety of forms from different angles.

    What I don’t like:

    The “comma” has a big butt. Viewed from the north, it will potentially very broad.

    The proportions could be better in general. Maybe better renderings will make me feel better about this.

    The top of the tower ends with a whimper. Do something powerful, or just end the pattern without any flourish at all. (Is that meant to be a “distinctive visual terminus”?)

    The podium is boring. SOM’s accessories to the Cathedral are similarly so. Is this tower-base at work? Why not taper it into the design or have it flow a little better? This looks like an afterthought.

    Those who can, do. Those who cannot, Muschamp.

  13. Steve Carney

    “Is the available office space in Oakland not rented because of the space or because of Oakland?”

    Last I read in the Business Times, the vacancy rate in Oakland was 8% for Class A office space and 10% for all classes. This vacancy rate compares very favorably to the national average and signifies a “tight” office market in Oakland. The healthy office market in Oakland is why the SKS and Swig projects have been proposed and are likely to move forward.

  14. James H. Robinson

    So a private company with private financing is offering to construct a new building in a city that needs all the development it can get, and along the way, the construction of the building will provide jobs. What are people complaining about?

  15. Navid

    YES YES YES! Amazing. I LOVE the design.

    You’re also very on point with this:

    I mean, I walk down 20th now, with those one story banks and giant surface parking lot and that hideous Nurses Association building, and I want to cry.

    YES. I walk from Adam’s Point through the lake and onto that row almost every day (to get to the BART), and I want to kill myself. It’s hideous. Those open parking lots need to be utilized better. If I go to grad school for something else, it would be in architecture and I would love to work on making aesthetically pleasing parking garages….Those empty lots are repulsing.

  16. oaklandhappenings

    What about the problem with 1100 Broadway?? SKS won’t build it, until there is an anchor tenant, correct? Therefore, won’t the same thing happen here, or does SKS just have their heads up their a**es? Just wondering. Overall, I think the Encinal building is too tall, but worth it, if they can really fill it up. I would prefer an office-only one also, but Oakland’s gotta do what “we” gotta do.
    Also, an off-topic question, but one of economic importance:
    does anyone have an update on the Fox Theater? I heard that the grand opening got pushed back to Jan, but the countdown marker is only 50 days, as of Tuesday.
    ??

  17. Raymond Johnson

    I am always amazed by people who argue against development by questioning the market demand for a proposed building. Do they really believe someone would put up millions of dollars if they didn’t think the demand for their project was there? And don’t they think that someone, ya know, actually researched it, just a bit? Such great concern for other people’s money, it is really admirable.

    Having said that, I agree with Max more than V here. The design is good (and I guess for Oakland, real good), but not great. I’m actually surprised V likes it so much given her (correct) general objection to the tower-base model. Certainly the tower is fairly nice (not so sure ’bout that nautilus), but the base is real generic.

    And though I love tall buildings, the problem is that tall buildings (in the U.S.) always seem to be next to other tall buildings. And then you have the financial district in San Francisco, one of the crappiest, most suburban places in the entire Bay Area. Much better to spread them out. Why does downtown Oakland get them all? I say it’s unfair!

    I’d call myself a qualified supporter, looking forward to seeing it progress.

  18. James H. Robinson

    The financial district in San Francisco is suburban? How?

    Tall buildings are next to other tall buildings to increase density and maximize the efficiency of mass transit. It also provides a critical mass of people that benefits many industries. Cities like New York and Chicago are based on the concept of high-density development and continue to thrive.

  19. Colin

    I’m amazed that nobody believes that the city will be spending money on this project. We offer incentives to developers all the time – it’s part of how the sausage gets made.

    As far as “real money” goes, please read this:
    http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/stories/2008/07/21/story6.html
    “Avant and the city are still negotiating an agreement that could take a year to finalize. Under the proposed deal, Avant will buy the land from the city for about $2.6 million and develop the parking garage. It will then sell the garage to the city at cost, which will probably be $20 million to $25 million, and the city will operate it as public parking. ”
    So, we sell them the land for 2.6 million, then buy back the parking garage they build for 20-25 million. Sounds like real money to me, and it’s not a redevelopment agency project. I also don’t know if 2.6 million is a fair price for half a block in uptown. Seems low to me, but I’m not in the half block market.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with the city spending money on projects like this – especially if they’re destroying a couple of perfectly good parking lots in order to build the monster tower. It’s a sound investment. But let’s not pretend that there’s no outlay. What’s more, I’m pretty sure that with some digging I could find a robust package of sweeteners offered to developers and potential tenants, from tax incentives to inspection considerations. This is the way buildings get built, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but I do think it deserves scrutiny. The article about the tower also states the obvious – that financing will be hard to come by in the current market (ie, when the financiers do their research). You think the city’s not going to go out of its way to encourage this project?

    It’s not as simple as, “Do you mind if we put a building in here?” “Cool, just tell us where and write us a check.”

    As far as questioning the research of the developers, I think it’s a smart thing to do. I’m not the person to do it, but it should be done. There are numerous examples of cities greenlighting ambitious projects that fail in spite of the developer’s promises. 8 Orchids (condos again) isn’t exactly a raging success. Or there was the whole redevelopment of the Emporium debacle in the 90s. Trump towers went bankrupt shortly after he built it. It happens.

    Ah well, time will tell. I’m interested to see what comes of this.

  20. Max Allstadt

    Trump towers did go bankrupt. But it didn’t fall over. And it’s still occupied, very occupied. So what’s the problem? Am I missing something? Did NYC lose money because the Donald did?

  21. Colin

    Max,

    NYC lost a significant amount of promised tax income when TT declared bankruptcy and the preceding fire sale auctions. They also lost money on bonds granted to TT that hadn’t been paid back. I don’t have totals, but money was lost.

    Luckily, they’re NYC and the property could be resold, so their calculated risk worked out. We have to be honest about our city in calculating our risk. Is that somehow unreasonable?

    Here’s another parallel: In 1995, Oakland built a very impressive ice rink downtown and promised it would become an entertainment hub for the whole bay area. It’s huge (NHL-sized), well maintained, and is purpose-specific, which guarantees a better quality of ice. It didn’t work out – bond payments were defaulted on within months of completion (that’d be money to the city) and the city ended up having to take it over after losing 11 million on the defaulted bonds. I love ice skating and appreciate a good, well-maintained rink, but I didn’t have any illusions about it being a smart project. As of last year, we’ve finally signed on to let a solid company run it (after selling it to them for waaaay too little money), but it’s still not a money-making central entertainment hub and has cost us much, much more money than it’s worth.

    (As a Hoboken-factor aside, some other people I know who like ice skating are very excited about this:
    http://www.insidebayarea.com/trivalleyherald/localnews/ci_10373399?source=rss
    A new ice rink – in Pleasanton! Some of these people live in Oakland, and they would rather go to Pleasanton. For a smaller rink.)

  22. V Smoothe Post author

    There’s a lot of stuff in this discussion I want to respond to, but don’t have time to just yet (real work, ick). I’ll probably just write up a whole new post on it once SOM gets me the renderings and hopefully I’ll be able to address some of the issues people are having then.

    But I just have to say, OMG Colin, put down the haterade! It’s one thing to diss tall buildings, but now the ice rink! That’s just mean. I love the ice rink!

  23. dto510

    Colin, you keep talking about redevelopment agency projects as if that’s the same of subsidizing private development – it’s not. The city does pay for parking structures (they are receiving it at cost, so it’s not a subsidy), and they do occasionally do big public projects that are open to criticism. Private development doesn’t cost money and not getting as much tax revenue as expected because the project isn’t as lucrative as expected isn’t a loss for the city, it’s just a smaller gain than expected. There is no way that a new building would generate less revenue than the existing parking lots.

  24. Colin

    Hey now – I love the ice rink, too. But no matter how much I enjoy it personally, it has proven to be tits on a boar, no?

    [hmm... if there's ever an abetteroakland social I nominate this as the location.]

  25. David

    I’d love to see a building that tall here. Like Max and Raymond, I’m not as thrilled about the design as V Smoothe is, but it’s better than most buildings in Oakland. Becks at Living in the O described it as “sleek,” but “stumpy” is actually the word that came to my mind, at least from certain angles. Something about the proportions of the nautilus seems a bit off, but maybe it’s a problem with the available images rather than the actual design. That said, I’d welcome it without hesitation if the alternative were the status quo.

  26. David

    But no matter how much I enjoy it personally, it has proven to be tits on a boar, no?

    Colin, I can’t believe you just made that sexist comment about Sarah Palin, calling her a boar. I’m outraged!

  27. Colin

    Colin, I can’t believe you just made that sexist comment about Sarah Palin, calling her a boar. I’m outraged!

    I was going through a list of more topical metaphors (lipstick on a pitbull, lipstick on a hockey mom, etc) but while I was typing that a friend sent me this:
    http://www.herobuilders.com/08.htm
    Brand new Sarah Palin action figures. I was (and am) so creeped out by these that I decided to revert to the classic metaphor and try to forget the whole thing. I don’t care what your party affiliation, we should all be united in our revulsion.

  28. Raymond Johnson

    James – Like most American downtowns, the financial district of San Francisco is fairly suburban. It was created from the same conditions that led to the rise of suburbs, and like them, is a fairly single-use district (professional employment). Now of course this is beginning to change, but it is a veritable ghost-town on Saturday mornings as compared with Grand Lake. I’ll try to elaborate on this in a future post.

    Colin – I just don’t think you can argue against good private investment projects simply because the municipality in which they occur makes poor decisions. Of course the city shouldn’t be buying a parking garage for $20-25 million, mostly because it shouldn’t be in the business of parking provision at all.

    And maybe $2.6 million is low for the lot, but I think the city should be willing to sell the lot at a discount to ensure a better development. I can’t say whether in this particular instance it is worth it or not. But if we wait for Oakland to stop making bad decisions to support new development, I fear we will be waiting a long time.

    If developers want to build more housing in Oakland and lose money doing it, I think that is something we should encourage. It will drive down housing costs for everyone. Certainly Orchids 8 is not a raging success right now, but I think in a few years it will provide a somewhat affordable housing option for those who want to live in an incredibly ugly building right next to a freeway. Other than the fact that we all have to look at it, that’s not a disaster. Even then, it really just provides comic relief.

  29. ConcernedOakFF

    I actually like the look of the 8 Orchids Building.

    I say build it. Every empty lot should be built on. It can only HELP this city! I would even say that the city should use eminent domain to take abandoned buildings and give the land for WAYYYY under “market value” (whatever that is anymore) to developers with a rock-solid contract to build, and penalties it they fail to fulfill.

  30. New Resident

    How could you call Orchids 8 an ugly building Raymond? I think its Art-Deco facade one of the nicest looking additions to Oakland over the past couple of years.

    Or must all new buildings have the same tired, failed, modernist aesthetic because some hack of a architect declared all building must be “of their times”? (Mostly because he couldn’t deal with anything more complicated than an ugly modernist slabs.)

    As for Encinal Tower they stole my idea!!! Just kidding but seriously as I walked by this last month or two I kept looking at the horrible left over parking hole on Broadway. Two weeks ago I had to stop and stare and start measuring the space. It is such a waste to leave as an asphalted dead space.

    Great height, but this tower has no base! Where is the architectural acknowledgment of the street? None, there is no base. The streetwall of the Tapscott building should be extended across the entire site. Make the wall stone or brick, sometime solid and conforming to pedestrian/people walking by. Look at how 1999 Harrison treats the street versus Encinal. For all of 1999′s flaws* it definitely engages the street. In contrast it looks like SOM just dropped the tower all the way to the street level and punched a few doors. They even create this weird leftover space on Broadway.

    Any wonder why none of the model and visualization shots above show the most important facade Broadway? Because the architect didn’t think it important enough to properly treat it importantly.

    Another bad idea, a private BART entrance. Put that BART entrance on the street sidewalk out front. Get those eyes on the street! High crime = we need more people walking, not less.

    *Why they chose column designs that a stone-age Doric Greek would find primitive I don’t know. 80′s I guess.

  31. V Smoothe Post author

    They showed renderings of the Broadway entrance at the meeting, I just didn’t take any pictures of them. I actually thought the street face of the building was really nice – lovely and inviting.

  32. New Resident

    Yeah, I talked with the architect and he was very proud of his design and the weird empty triangle up against the Tapscott building. It just would not be a nice thing to walk by.
    Architecture, like your home’s walls, is not sculpture. It needs to create comfortable public spaces. Like your bedroom walls make a nice “boring” private space. That means it needs to follow the “boring” rules of human geographic psychology (enclosure, visibility, porousity, etc.). What weird stuff starts happening 50-80 feet in the air… that can be sculpture. But the first 50 feet or so should be designed so people walking by aren’t repelled by weird leftover spaces. Hence why the fake arches on on the site right now.

    Have the failures of modernist arch. not taught architects enough? Considering how many still admire Le Corbusier, the destroyer of cities, I guess not. Not that this building design is anywhere near as bad as those ideas, but sure seems “uncomfortable” that is was born into a time and place where Jacobs rather than Le Corbusier won the argument.

    Go high but respect the “mere pedestrian” far below.

  33. V Smoothe Post author

    I agree that the triangle looked oddly empty in the renderings, but I was thinking it would would be nice with the addition of some benches – a place where people can duck away from the sidewalk throng and sit and have a conversation outdoors.

  34. Navigator

    I don’t understand some of the anti-Oakland “Hoboken factor” comments by Collin. Oakland doesn’t need to apologize to anyone for being a city worthy of the finest architecture, or of ambitious developments which would bring the city the prestige which it rightly deserves as the absolute geographic center of the Bay Area. I’m tired of the “no we can’t ” attitude and arguments which keep this city wallowing in mediocrity. Oakland is no “Hoboken” and San Francisco is no Manhattan. Oakland has better weather than SF, historic architecture, a more central location, and an interesting downtown with walkable neighborhoods next to mass transit. Let’s look at downtown. We have various successful neighborhoods coming together. We have Old Oakland, Chinatown, Uptown, Jack London Square, City Center, and Lake Merritt. These neighborhoods need a linchpin to bring the entire downtown together. Right now, the area between 15th & Broadway and 19th & Broadway is a dead area which desperately needs to be redeveloped and re-energized. This proposed building will bring the critical mass to revitalize this part of Broadway and connect it to the Lake Merritt and Uptown areas. Also, to reiterate what a previous poster said in regards to residential construction downtown, the 665 units of “Uptown” are apartments, not condos. Also, the 22 story high-rise “100 Grand” are likewise apartment units. Again, Oakland is a great city which needs not apologize to anyone with a San Francisco centric mind-set or a New York point of view.

  35. Colin

    Navigator,

    I don’t disagree with your boosterism of Oakland at all. This is my home, and I love it here. I have bought a house and have every intention of dieing in it because I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I don’t feel any need to apologize for my city or anything of the sort.

    But I want to be realistic about it’s place in the world.

    Have you ever been to Hoboken? It’s a great city and I love it. It’s very beautiful, with incredible row houses, spacious streets, cheap real estate values, and nothing but potential everywhere you look. But you don’t think about that when you think about Hoboken. No, you think of a broken, terrible place, with lots of crime and urban decay. More importantly, no matter how attractive the building you build in Hoboken, it isn’t viewed favorably as a business center, in spite of the fact that it’s easier to get to Wall Street from Hoboken than the upper east side.

    It’s affordable! It’s convenient! It’s centrally located! And yet businesses aren’t flocking there. Matter of fact, they shun it – unrealistically and at their own detriment, but they do.

    Hoboken is not currently considering building the 3rd largest building in their immediate vicinity.

    Now, Hoboken is not as large as Oakland, and they’re not really comparable in a lot of ways as cities. That’s not my point. My point is that people have an unpleasant opinion of Hoboken based on nothing, as they do with Oakland. And it affects the viability of large projects such as this. To pretend it isn’t so doesn’t do the city any favors.

    I do not share the general desire to see as many buildings built as can be built. I don’t see an advantage to that approach and I do see disadvantages – if you think 20th is sad now, imagine it with wall to wall abandoned buildings.

  36. Navigator

    Colin,

    The unpleasant opinion of Oakland comes from slanted San Francisco centric crime reporting. As a matter of fact, downtown Oakland is much safer than downtown SF. Oakland has recorded one homicide in its downtown compared to over twenty homicides in the various neighborhoods which constitute downtown SF. Serious crimes like robberies, burglaries, and aggravated assaults are much more common in downtown SF than in downtown Oakland. The aggravated assault rate alone is 7x higher in downtown SF according to the police crime maps of both cities. Oakland needs to launch a PR campaign to educate Bay Area residents about the true crime levels in both cities’ downtowns. San Francisco has their media promoting SF while downplaying it’s crime. Unfortunately. Oakland’s crime gets played up while the positive news gets ignored. Unlike SF, Oakland needs to pay for its PR.

  37. len raphael

    Colin makes a valid point that there will be oakland subsidies that have to be transparent. I don’t know about the rest of you, but my usual belief that business’s have the strongest self motivation and ability to evaluate their own risks has been shaken of late :)

    Why is Oakland staying in the muni parking lot biz?

    -len raphael
    temescal

  38. Daniel Levy

    I don’t like the building. I think it is ugly and too large. They should build something that is more in keeping with the area like a nice 5-6 story rectangle apartment building that looks like it was built in the 20s.

  39. Chris Kidd

    Daniel,
    I’m a little confused with your reasoning. Why, in your mind, would a 5-6 story 1920′s rectangle-replica be preferable to the Encinal Tower? It surely wouldn’t have the same economic impact. I’m not even sure it would have a positive economic impact at all. The DTO is neither hurting for 5 story buildings from the 1920′s, nor in serious need of more apartments. What is needed is A-grade business space on large enough floor plates to attract the large businesses that can help revitalize our downtwon. And personally, I abhor mickey-mouse faux-historical fakes. It just serves to denigrate the historical integrity of the real buildings from that era in the surrounding neighborhood.
    And putting preference and economics aside, something like the Encinal Tower is just what Oakland’s skyline needs. Residents in SF were up in arms about building the Transamerica pyramid in the 1970′s, but it has become one of SF’s most memorable, world-renowned icons. Why should we deny ourselves the opportunity to give identity and character to our otherwise non-descript downtown?

  40. Andrew

    God I hope this goes through, the city council, mayor and everyone else should work their ass off to make it happen. A iconic building like that would forever change the city and has only positives, nothing negative at all! Vote for me as mayor and I’ll personally see to it these projects get approval and completed.