The Oakland Unified School District is on a fast track to renovate and reopen its historic administration building, which has been closed since January 2013 when a water leak flooded the building. The buildings at the site, located along the Oakland Estuary between 10th and 12th streets, is now named the Dr. Marcus Foster Educational Complex. The buildings at the site include the Paul Robeson Administration Building and the Ethel Moore Building – adjacent to a high school, Dewey Academy.
The “aggressive” timeline for completing design, permits and construction calls for moving into the complex in July 2019, one month before the district’s lease expires for its temporary headquarters in downtown Oakland, according to Joe Dominquez, the deputy chief who oversees the Division of Facilities Planning & Management for OUSD.
The plan to move back to the site of the old district headquarters has been in the works for a while, and now the priority is to let the public know what is being planned and to actively involve the community in the process, said Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell.
In the short run it may have worked to lease property, but “in the long run being housed in our own facility is economically effective,” she said.
The extensive renovation will involve seismic retrofits, ADA upgrades and replacement of all systems: heating, cooling, electrical, plumbing and IT. In addition, walls, windows and roofs will be repaired or replaced.
The cost of renovating the four-story Robeson Building, 56,000 square feet, and the three-story, wood-framed Ethel Moore Building, 14,000 square feet, is estimated at $40 million for the Robeson and Ethel Moore buildings and $49.5 million for the two buildings and the construction of a multi-purpose room for Dewey Academy, according to Dominguez, speaking at a recent school board meeting.
A building assessment is being completed, and a more exact cost estimate is being prepared, said Dominguez. The district will pay for the project with Measure J bond funds by utilizing a lease-leaseback agreements according to the district.
Under such a plan, the school district leases its property to a developer at a nominal cost and then leases the completed project back from the developer. At the end of the lease, the property reverts to the district.
The water leak that occurred during the night of Jan. 7, 2013 in the Robeson Building caused “excessive flooding on all four floors and significant damage to the entire structure,” according to 2015 district memo by then General Counsel Jacqueline Minor.
District staff vacated the building, moving temporarily to numerous school sites.
Instead of repairing its existing headquarters, OUSD leased space at 1000 Broadway in 2013 and in 2015 renewed and expanded its lease of space for central office functions.
The 2015 lease, which expires at the end of August 2019, is now costing the district about $3 million a year.
According the district 2015 memo, the insurance settlement for the damage covered the cost of lease payments until May 2016.
Marcus A. Foster was an extremely popular OUSD superintendent, who served from 1970 to 1973. He was assassinated in 1973 after a school board meeting by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army.
Paul Robeson, 1898 – 1976, was an athlete, singer and actor and an outspoken advocate for racial justice and workers rights. A revolutionary and anti imperialist, he was blacklisted during the McCarthy era.