Big Downtown Oakland Project Faces Engineering Challenge With BART Line
Oakland developer Alan Dones’ and Lane Partners’ plans to build two acres of office, housing and retail space at 2100 Telegraph Ave. face a “significant structural and engineering obstacle” in that the site of the project sits over an active BART line.
Designing the property so it can safely stand above a BART tube is a surmountable challenge, the developers say. But it could increase the project’s cost, making it harder to meet demands for affordable housing and other benefits that the community is likely to seek from the project.
“Among the benefits that we want to achieve and that we intend to achieve is an amount of affordability.” Dones told a recent community meeting in downtown Oakland. “As a result of the site and the constraint that we have, we are going to have to come up with a very involved solution that creates economies of scale and that maximizes the opportunity that that challenge poses.”
The project, being developed by a partnership between Dones’s Strategic Urban Development Alliance LLC and Menlo Park-based Lane Partners, is the largest in Oakland’s downtown. It extends down 21st Street from Telegraph Avenue to Broadway and up Telegraph to 22nd Street. It sits near Oakland’s Uptown arts district, entertainment venues include the Fox and Paramount theaters, residential and commercial districts, and the 19th St. BART station.
“It is a tremendous footprint, and it’s a great opportunity to build something super fantastic,” said Peter Weingarten, co-manager of the Oakland office of design firm Gensler, which has been commissioned for the project. “It’s not often in the urban context that we get the benefit of such a gracious footprint to do something really great.”
However, the tube into BART’s 19th St. Oakland Station cuts beneath a majority of the property.
“One of the design challenges for any of the things we hope to accomplish is how do we deal structurally with building over an active rail line that runs right beneath our site,” Weingarten said. “It’s a significant structural and engineering obstacle.”
Dones said in an interview that the obstacle can be overcome but that it is likely to increase the cost of the project.
“You’ve got to get the scale to overcome to the cost,” he said.
As Strategic Urban Development and Lane look to design a large-scale project, they may also need support from the community, and Oakland residents are likely to have a wide variety of concerns about and ambitions for the project.
Activists and experts on issues including affordable housing and economic development, transportation, Oakland’s retail economy, technology and cultural preservation were invited by the developers to a community meeting in November a few blocks away from the site at the Impact Hub co-working space in Oakland. There, they were asked to break into small groups and discuss potential benefits that the project could bring.
“We decided the first thing we want to do before we get seriously committed to any development approach is to come in and talk to you and to get your feedback and your ideas,” Dones told the group.