Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center

While Oakland’s City Council is slated to choose between two proposals for reviving the city’s long-shuttered 215,000-square-foot Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center across from Lake Merritt next month, the City’s official recommendation as to which proposal the Council should select has been formally challenged.

Earlier this month, Oakland city officials recommended that Orton Development be awarded the project with a proposal that included a renovation of the center’s Calvin Simmons Theatre and the redevelopment of the center’s 140,000-square-foot arena space with a mix of primarily private uses, including a restaurant hall and office space.

The competing proposal from Creative Development Partners, which didn’t earn the City’s recommendation, would maintain the center’s arena space for events and activities but includes the development of an adjacent 280-room hotel dubbed “One Lake Merrit.”

One Lake Merrit Hotel

A formal appeal has now been filed by Creative Development with Oakland’s office of Contract Compliance, challenging the City’s recommendation on both process and substantive grounds, including the scoring process, the recommended proposal’s impact on public access and cultural preservation, and “misrepresentations” as to Creative Development’s access to capital.

How the challenge will play out, and if it will impact the Council’s selection process and timing, remains to be seen.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Amewsed

    This is a prime piece of real estate. Can’t believe it has been sitting vacant for so long. Wasn’t the three day CA bar exam administered here back in the late 90’s? Lake Merritt is supposed to be nice, right? Dellums and Quan really added no value to the city.

  2. Posted by curmudgeon

    These appeals are typical in Oakland, unfortunately. These things get all tied up in race and local preference (despite what the “official” reasons are). But I don’t think the City Council is in any mood to just sit on this. This project was mismanaged by the Redevelopment Agency for years, and then tied up in the dissolution of redevelopment agencies nationwide. But, frankly the timing couldn’t be better…the new park/boulevard in front of the building in the picture, and additional investments in Lake Merritt make this all that much more attractive for reuse.

  3. Posted by Willow

    Crazy this has been vacant. I own a unit at the Essex and the gentrification in the past 3 years has been astounding.

    Agree on Dellums but I do think Quan while not great was OK.

  4. Posted by katdip

    I know nothing about these developers or their specific plans, but it seems a shame to lose the large venue space to office and retail. Was the main opposition to the 1LM plan mostly because of the hotel?

    • Posted by Randolph Belle

      It’s not opposition to the hotel, but the siting of the hotel, which we also challenge. A headquarter hotel needs to be next to convention and meeting space and we have 4 outstanding international hotel brands saying the same thing. It looks like it’s primarily pressure from the historic preservationists that is driving the conversation, even though we’ve been very thoughtful about placement, sight lines, shadow studies and environmental impact.

      • Posted by Matt in Uptown

        Randolph “we’ve been very thoughtful about placement, sight lines, shadow studies and environmental impact.” Then why aren’t you providing renderings of the hotel from an OMCA garden perspective?

  5. Posted by Randolph Belle

    Thanks for your coverage of this important topic. We believe this is definitely worth the debate, when we’ve designed a market-rate solution with multiple community benefits. Given the amount of new capital that is coming into Oakland (we’ve raised $66 million in equity from a range of mission-aligned sources), this is the opportunity to change the paradigm a bit and engage some of the same financing mechanisms in a much more beneficial, yet no less sustainable or profitable way.

    • Posted by Amewsed

      What? Can you speak clearly and to the point? Oakland has been a day late and a dollar short throughout its history so how is more debating going to help?

      I don’t see any international hotels beating down the door to build anything. Lucky you don’t see businesses fleeing from protests du jour. Build it now. The only sight lines you should care about is blocking out the ghetto parts. Look to Emeryville for guidance.

      • Posted by Dixon Hill

        “look to Emeryville for guidance”. LOL.

        Say what you want about Oakland, it’s a real city with a ton of historic character to work with in the downtown area. Redevelop, but do it carefully and retain the good bits. Done right, it could be a model for other American cities with vintage downtown areas but some economic decay and blight over the years.

        • Posted by Amewsed

          Yup, Oakland can aspire to be Baltimore.

          • Posted by Dixon Hill

            Those are your words. Not mine. I said the opposite. If Oakland redevelops well, it could be a model for Baltimore and dozens of other blighted cities around the country.

            Oakland is a real city, with BART running to the downtown connecting it with the rest of the region. Much of Emeryville is a pre-fab bedroom community situated next to a frequently jammed freeway and highly dependent on the auto.

            In previous business cycles, Oakland began looking good just as the party was nearly over. Hard to tell, but Oakland finally appears to be turning the corner. There’s too much work still to be done in Oakland to expect it to happen in 5 years. It will probably take several business cycles. That’s how capital markets work.

        • Posted by Pablo

          30 years ago Emeryville used to be much much worse than West Oakland. Now? It much better.
          Not perfect – no – but much better than it was and much better than West Oakland.

          If the choice is between getting it done, improving the quality of peoples lives now (Emeryville) – or another 30+ years of crazy crime and poverty ( West Oakland) – I’ll vote for Emeryville.

  6. Posted by GoBlueInSF

    If folks bother to read the linked articles which have the actual details, part of the appeal is that one of the members of the selection committee basically stated before the selection process even started that she wasn’t going to vote for the hotel/conference/events center proposal. She should have dismissed from the selection committee at that point immediately. But its Oakland, where we can screw up a ham sandwich.

    The individual in question (Naomi Schiff) is a member of the Oakland Heritage Alliance and well known for opposing any and every real estate development project that comes within sniffing distance of any large “historic” building. There’s a giant rusting, rotting useless pier building in the Oak to Ninth project that you can see standing alone in the midst of the current demo site because Schiff and her crew wailed that it was some critical piece of Oakland’s history.

    The railyards projects that Holiday Development did in West Oakland has a rotting hulk of the old train station still standing for the same reason.

    Here, Schiff insists the hotel will somehow destroy the historic context of the convention center which is just so much unmitigated B.S.

    The other piece of the appeal is that the RFP required community benefits. The Orton proposal from what I have seen is pretty thin on the ground in that respect with a lot of vague generalities.

    The other proposal – from what I’ve read of it – includes a rather robust job training program that includes not just get people hired during construction but getting locals hired to work in the hotel and event center, which tend to be good paying working class jobs. While wealthy condo owns in the Essex might be soiling themselves over the gentrification around the Lake, most Oaklanders are working class people for whom gentrification means the white folks have shown up, so move out. So a proposal that involves a permanent commitment to get lower income Oaklanders into better paying permanent jobs should be taken seriously in the context of disposal of public land.

    Just because the RDA managed to screw things up for years on this site is no argument in favor of just rushing things now. Regardless of who is selected, neither is going to be starting anytime soon and whatever over-optimistic timing projections were made in either proposal are likely sheer fantasy. We’re 18 months or so from a market correction and a turn of the business cycle. There’s no need for “hurry hurry hurry” at this point so late in the business cycle.

  7. Posted by TribTowerViews

    This is a good, relevant contribution to an article about a proposed ground-lease for a city-owned property and not some weird provincial ax-grinding IMHO.

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