OAKLAND — A proposal to build a stunning office highrise that would be Oakland’s tallest tower — and the tallest Bay Area skyscraper outside of San Francisco — has hopped a giant step ahead in the city approval process.
The Oakland Planning Commission has voted 5-0, with one abstention, to approve an office tower that would be 622 feet high — 200 feet taller than what is currently Oakland’s tallest highrise, the Ordway Building.
“It is a beautiful-looking building,” Oakland Planning Commissioner Sahar Shirazi said prior to the panel’s vote. “Yes, it’s tall. But it looks great.”
The 38-story office tower would be developed at 415 20th St. near the corner of Thomas L. Berkley Way and Franklin Street. The tower would include 862,000 square feet of office space.
Elevated view at night of 415 20th St. in downtown Oakland, an office tower that would be the tallest highrise in the East Bay city, concept. San Francisco is in the background. // Pickard Chilton
Hines, a Texas-based real estate firm, is leading the development of the building, which would sprout a block away from the 19th Street Oakland BART station if it’s built.
“This is a true Oakland project,” Paul Paradis, a senior managing director with Houston-based Hines, told the Planning Commission before its vote this week.
Paradis touted the project’s location as being among the tower’s attractions.
“It is right on the 19th Street BART station in the heart of Uptown,” Paradis said. “The building’s open spaces allow full enjoyment of the great Oakland weather. We are just a short walk to beautiful Lake Merritt.”
Oakland appears to be on the cusp of being a big-time magnet for larger companies in the wake of expansions or relocations out of San Francisco.
That attraction also poses a problem, however: Oakland could start to run out of big chunks of office space to dangle before big users.
“Oakland is very much in need of high-quality office space to continue attracting world-class employers, which this building will do,” Paradis said. “It will be a beautiful addition to the Oakland skyline.”
Street-level view of 415 20th St. in downtown Oakland, an office tower that would be the tallest highrise in the East Bay city. // Pickard Chilton
The tower also will offer multiple spaces on different levels to enable public access.
“We will have three terrific public spaces,” Paradis said.
The public access areas: on the ground floor, a piazza; around the sixth floor, an “elevated uptown park,” as Paradis put it; on the roof, a sky terrace with what could potentially offer jaw-dropping views in all directions.
“The public spaces are unique,” Planning Commissioner Jonathan Fearn said prior to the vote. “I have no problem with the height. The building is right in the middle of the downtown.”
The Hines push to develop the tower shows confidence in the city’s urban core despite the economic uncertainties spawned by the coronavirus, one planning commissioner said.
“It is very interesting that in our current state of the world people are doubling down on building offices in downtown Oakland,” Commissioner Amanda Monchamp said.
City officials also believe the development of big office towers could help attract and retain more jobs in Oakland.
Among the deals of recent years, which involved relocations from San Francisco to downtown Oakland, expansions into downtown Oakland, or both:
— Blue Shield of California agreed to move its headquarters out of San Francisco to the City Center complex.
— Credit Karma first decided to lease space in a new Oakland tower, The Key at 12th, and eventually decided to move its headquarters as well.
— Square is expanding into downtown Oakland, leasing all of the office space in Uptown Station.
— PG&E has leased an Oakland office tower on Lakeside Drive next to Lake Merritt and has an option to buy the building. The utility giant will shift its headquarters to Oakland and exit San Francisco.
“It is about time we had some truly tall buildings here,” Planning Commissioner Leopold Ray-Lynch said. “If we can get more of these, we can truly make Oakland a city that’s on the move, more than it is now.”
Downtown Oakland, looking south along Broadway towards Jack London Square, a view that shows 415 20th St. (dark blue), an office tower that would be the tallest highrise in the East Bay city, massing concept. // Hines
Originally Appeared On: https://www.mercurynews.com/2021/05/07/mega-office-tower-proposal-in-downtown-oakland-hops-ahead