Alexan Webster – Oakland apartments break ground next to site of recent construction fire

San Francisco Business Times

July 18, 2017

Developer Trammell Crow Residential started construction on a $135 million, 243-unit apartment building at 2330 Webster St. in Oakland. The site is just a block away from the site where a recent fire destroyed a half-built apartment project.

Those projects and several others represent years of city planning to attract new housing and retail development to Oakland’s Auto Row, a once thriving car dealership hub that’s now dotted with vacant and underused properties.

Oakland adopted the Broadway Valdez plan in 2012 with the aim of spurring up to 3,000 new residences and 360,000 square feet of retail. So far, about 1,100 homes and more than 100,000 square feet of retail are under construction.

The Trammell Crow site, currently a surface parking lot, sits near some of Uptown’s top attractions such as BART, the Fox Theater and Lake Merritt.

The recent fire at 2302 Valdez St. is the fourth suspicious construction fire in less a year in Oakland, distressing many developers. That fire gutted Alta Waverly, Wood Partners’ 196-unit apartment building on July 7. The developer hasn’t stated if the project will restart construction.

Authorities ruled that three of the fires involved arson and the fourth is still under investigation.

“This is, plain and simple, terrorism,” said Bruce Dorfman, Trammell Crow Residential’s senior managing director of the Northern California division.

He called the latest Wood Partners’ fire “very disappointing,” but “it doesn’t change the overall need and viability of our development and the tremendous need for quality housing in Oakland as well as regionally.”

Instead of adding 500 more homes to the East Bay’s housing stock, renters have to continue competing for existing supply.

That’s all the more reason that Trammell Crow is “excited” to start work on its first Oakland development.

The location is “outstanding,” Dorfman said. The project will “help meet the rising demand for both market-rate and affordable housing and neighborhood-serving amenities in Oakland.”

Dorfman and partner William Thompson co-founded Thompson Dorfman in Mill Valley 1999, a development firm that Dallas-based Trammell Crow acquired in 2015 with the goal of building 1,000 homes in three years. The firm is also working on an 800-unit, mixed-use project at the Alameda Naval Air Station.

“We have more than $1 billion in the development pipeline in this region and we are still looking for additional sites,” Dorfman said.

Designed by KTGY Architecture + Planning, the project will incorporate 15,000 square feet of retail in a burgeoning retail district that is already home to dozens of restaurants and an upcoming West Elm hotel.

The project will include 110 parking spaces for residents and 242 spaces for the public, which will be operated by the City of Oakland. Trammell Crow made a deal with the city to build the public parking in exchange for the land.

“This development takes an under-used piece of property and creatively redevelops it — providing essential housing, retail and art elements that benefit Oakland without displacing anyone living or working in the area,” said City of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf in a statement.

The project, dubbed the Alexan Webster, will include a mix of studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments ranging from 610 to 1,160 square feet. Trammell Crowcommitted to setting aside 15 percent for renters earning between 50 and 120 percent of the area’s median income.

Future residents will have access to amenities including a pool, gym, business center, rooftop lounge, bicycle repair shop and a pet spa.

The rooftop will also exhibit a stained-glass sculpture from artist Tom Fruin that will be illuminated at night and visible from throughout the surrounding area.

“The artwork will contributes to the ambiance of the rooftop lounge and greater neighborhood,” said Jessica Musick, associate principal in KTGY’s Oakland office.

Trammell Crow teamed up with Suffolk Construction to build the apartments with completion slated for mid-2019.