Publication: San Francisco Business Times
Date: January 29, 2015

Oakland officials have been pushing a plan to redevelop a 1-mile stretch of Broadway between Grand Avenue and Highway 580, known as “Auto Row,” and the planning is starting to pay off.

The area — called the Broadway-Valdez corridor — is attracting big interest in the way of mixed-use projects. Applications have been pouring in since the city finalized its specific plan for the transit-rich area last July after a six-year process.

Many of the area’s car dealerships have shut down, leaving large blocks of space that city leaders envisioned could be transformed into a shopping and residential district.

In December, a mixed-use project at 3093 Broadway was the first to receive entitlements under the new plan. The project will include 435 apartments and 20,000 square feet of retail. Construction on the $150 million project is expected to begin later this year. Thompson Dorfman Partners LLC out of Mill Valley and srmErnst of Oakland are developing the project with Los Angeles-based City View as their capital partner. It will offer studios, one-bedroom and two-bedrooms, noted City View Project Manager Stephen Siri.

The project is the first Oakland development for both City View and Thompson Dorfman.

“The resident base we’re trying to serve is very much attracted to the environment of Oakland right now,” said Bruce Dorfman, co-founder and principal of Thompson Dorfman. “It’s a vibrant city and becoming an economical alternative for those getting priced out of San Francisco.”

The Broadway-Valdez district in particular has the advantage of proximity to BART and Lake Merritt, he added.

In fact, Thompson Dorfman has a second mixed-use project planned at 2315 Valdez that will include about 220 apartments, 15,000 square feet of retail and a garage. The developer is still seeking approvals on that project.

Already under construction is a CVS drugstore at 29664 Broadway and a 25,000-square-foot Sprouts supermarket, which will anchor the larger Shops at Broadway retail project at 3001 Broadway, said Peterson Vollman, senior planner for the city of Oakland. The latter will consist of about 36,000 square feet on a 1.9-acre site at the corner of 30th and Broadway.

“Oakland’s time has come, especially from a residential standpoint,” said Siri. With the Broadway-Valdez specific plan in place, approvals for 3093 Broadway took just three months.

Considering the proximity of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and Kaiser hospital, Siri said he expects target tenants to include supporting medical staff and millennials who can’t afford San Francisco rents.

VTBS Architects out of Santa Monica is designing the project at 3093 Broadway. Principal Johannes Van Tilburg said one challenge of the project was to incorporate the previous dealership façade into the new structure.

“The city felt very much that part of that building should be incorporated into the design so it has a rounded element on that prominent corner,” Van Tilburg said.

The building will in a way serve as one of the gateways to downtown Oakland, Siri said. He expects restaurants, possibly a dry cleaner and “Subway-type” shops to populate the ground floor retail portion of the site.

“We’ve heard from the hospitals that workers would like some tenants open into the evening hours since so many people work a night shift,” he added. Johnstone Moyer Inc. has been tapped for pre-construction services.

More multifamily projects are in the pipeline for the area. Wood Partners LLC has filed a development application for a mixed-use project at 2302 Valdez that would include about 200 apartment units and 30,000 square feet of retail. Lakeshore Partners has a proposal for a 24-story tower that will include 220 units and about 5,000 to 8,000 square feet of commercial on the ground floor.

Also, people are putting out feelers for a project at 27th and Broadway, which was home to the old Biff’s diner.

“There’s probably going to be some controversy around that,” Vollman said. “A group of folks want to preserve the diner.”

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