The City of Oakland this week voted unanimously to enter into a one-year exclusive negotiating agreement (ENA) with Orton Development to renovate the historic Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center next to Lake Merritt.
The decision comes after community groups and arts organizations expressed their support of the alternative plan by Creative Development Partners (CDP), which included building a hotel near the convention center and use of the arena for sporting and other large events.
The city staff recommendation to sign an ENA with Orton Development was based on the developer’s “significant track record working on large-scale historic rehabilitation projects, and demonstrated access to significant on-hand capital” to finance the project, according to the city report.
The project will include restoration of the Calvin Simmons Theater and the historical architecture of the building.
Orton Development’s original proposal had suggested use of the arena space, which is the largest part of the building, as office space, public access and food use.
However, as noted in the city report, the company has not yet committed to a specific plan for the arena space at the convention center.
The developer will also conduct tests to gather data on the geotechnical and seismic conditions of the building – exploring the soil conditions and structural design – before choosing a final design for the project.
Orton Development has committed to engaging the community and local stakeholders in the next year to help create the final design of the convention center.
The developer considering use of the arena as event and performance space, office or industrial space, as well as retail and other creative uses.