Oakland Council OKs Four Finalists for Army Base Development

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:44:00 AM

The Oakland City Council voted late Tuesday night to approve four finalist developers to bid on its 108-acre Oakland Army Base Gateway Development project. The four finalists—pared down from an original list of eight developers who bid on the job—will now be invited to submit requests for proposals within the next four to six months.  

Oakland is looking for several economic uses for land turned over to the city following the decommission of the Oakland Army Base, including activities related to the adjacent Port of Oakland, industrial, retail, and entertainment. A development team headed up by the Wayans Brothers of Los Angeles dropped out of an exclusive negotiating agreement with the city over the Gateway Development project last year. 

The Gateway Development proposal will be a test of whether Oakland—under the administration of Mayor Ron Dellums—will continue to favor locally connected developers or will become a major magnet for national and international development firms. 

One of the four finalists—Oakland-based Phil Tagami’s AMB/California Capital Group—has built several City of Oakland-funded projects, and is currently working on the restoration of Uptown’s Fox Oakland Theater. 

The other three finalists include one major player in national development, Denver/San Francisco-based Prologis/Catellus, and two major international players, Washington, D.C.-based Federal Development and Chicago-based First Industrial Realty. 

Tagami has been lobbying hard for the Oakland Army Base job with Oakland councilmembers, who will make the final decision on which a developer will be chosen once the RFP process is completed. 

At last week’s Council Community and Economic Development Committee meeting, which voted to send the RFP proposal to the full council, Councilmember Jane Brunner said that she will be looking at three areas when making the decision about who will develop the Army Base project: “I want to know how many jobs they are going to generate, I want to know how much revenue the project will generate for the city, and I want to see the project’s ‘vision.’ This is a gateway project for the city.” 

Brunner also said she wanted the proposal to have some flexibility built in to accommodate new economic developments in the coming years. 

“The market can change,” Brunner said. “Five years ago, we would have said that the army base development should center around housing. Today, we wouldn’t propose that.” 

Brunner suggested that the RFP contain an alternate retail component in order to meet possible changing economic conditions. 

But on Tuesday night, both Councilmembers Nancy Nadel, who represents the old Army Base area, and Pat Kernighan said they would not support putting an emphasis on retail in the Gateway proposal. 

“We’re focusing on retail in the upper Broadway area,” Nadel said. “We need to put heavier industry on [the old Army Base] site in order to keep it further away from residential areas. That’s a higher priority than having something that looks pretty for people coming over the bridge from San Francisco.” 

The council ultimately gave the four finalist developers the option to include a retail component in their proposals, if they wanted, with the council reserving the right to turn down any retail uses in their final decision. 

In response to its original request for qualifications on the Oakland Army Base project sent out in January of this year, 13 firms responded, many of them of national stature. Four of the companies that bid on developing the entire 108-acre site—Hillwood (a Ross Perot company), Oakland Bay Partners (a collection of Oakland and Bay Area firms formed specifically for the Gateway project), national development firm Prism Realty, and Oakland-based Triamid Galaxies—did not make the final staff cut for the RFP round of the development proposals. 

Five other firms—Oakland-based Jones Development Company, Modesto-based M&L Commodities, the Oakland Film Center, PCC Logistics (a division of Pacific Coast Container), and San Francisco-based W&E Group—all bid only on a portion of the proposed development track. 

In its original recommendation, city staff said that the RFP should ask developers to include the Oakland Film Center and a produce market proposed by Jones Development in their proposal. At the council’s request, the RFP will include a request that the developers make room on the site for PCC as well. PCC conducts national security-based container cargo searches, and said they need to be adjacent to Port of Oakland land in order to continue their operations.