OP-ED: New Oakland Business Ventures Mean New Opportunities


Some new and diverse businesses are coming to Oakland to create jobs and strengthen our economy. First up Sears sold the former Capwell building at 20th & Broadway to Lane partners, a Menlo Park real estate development company for $25 million.

The 85-year-old building will close by the end of the summer and will reopen with offices and retail to attract high-tech tenants.

This is a great transformation for a department store that has struggled since the 1989 earthquake. Even though it means losing the last major retail in downtown, a higher and better use of the building is for office, retail and to attract new businesses.

Historic Sears Building in Downtown Oakland
Historic Sears Building in Downtown Oakland

Gov. Jerry Brown abolished redevelopment agencies in California. The state law required all cities to liquidate their real estate holdings as they close their agencies.

The state gave the city permission to sell many real estate holdings. Some of the first will be right in the downtown area with the parking garage at 21st and Telegraph, the undeveloped park across from the Fox in the uptown apartments, and the parking lot at 20th and Telegraph.

Look for spirited bidding for these prime properties, transforming from underused city properties to businesses and jobs in the uptown area.

The world-famous San Francisco Fairmont hotel chain purchased the Claremont Hotel. The Fairmont parent, FRHI Hotels, based in Toronto, specializes in worldwide hotels. The primary investor is a Saudi Arabian prince and the country of QATAR. The other 50 percent owner is SF mega-investor and husband of Sen. Feinstein Richard Blum.

The Claremont sold for $155 million and includes the 279-room hotel, 22 acres of Oakland/Berkeley hills, a 1,500-member tennis club, along with a spa. The price of $550,000 per room is a premium sale for hotels in this area.

Many speculate the owners will develop some of the 22 acres on the property for housing/resort uses. This will mean more jobs, increase property taxes, property and sales taxes more visitors through the Oakland airport and literally the revitalization of an economic engine for Oakland.

Councilwoman Lynette McElhaney is on a mission to recruit more tech companies to Oakland. She is attempting to lure startups from the Silicon Valley and San Francisco to relocate and prosper in Oakland.

She points out Oakland can offer lower commercial rents, more available housing, more open spaces, public transportation, and a ready, willing and able workforce with and great diversity and neighborhoods.

With the councilwoman pushing the city to become more aggressive in recruiting new businesses, the benefits become quickly apparent with new jobs, residents, higher property values, taxes, all for better service.

Meanwhile, in Jack London Square, Ellis Partners proposed to build two new residential buildings, consisting of 17 stories at the base of Broadway and Embarcadero on the surface parking lot across from the old Barnes & Noble building and 26 stories at the corner of Harrison and Alice, for a combined total of 665 units.

Each building will also have ground-floor retail to add to the neighborhood amenities in Jack London Square.

Ellis partners have been entitled to develop Jack London Square since 2008. Their initial ideas of creating a retail farmers produce market and other ideas have fallen by the wayside.

They have now want to build housing and increase the density in Jack London Square.

Finally, the owners of Bocanova, the wildly successful South American Jack London Square hotspot, is opening a new venture called Jack’s Oyster Bar and Fish House located at 336 Water St.,

Team Bocanova bought to life the southern end of Jack London Square, they will do the same at the northern end.

More jobs, economic activity, and resident vibrancy will bring JL Square alive, create more revenues and make it a destination area that all Oakland citizens can enjoy.

Clinton Killian
Clinton Killian

Clinton Killian is an attorney at downtown Oakland law firm Fried & Williams LLP and is former public official. He can be reached at [email protected]






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