As we first reported earlier this year, Ellis Partners is planning to abandon the previously approved plans for a 20-story tower to rise adjacent to the historic Key System Building in Downtown Oakland.

Instead, the firm is now pursuing plans for an 18-story building to rise on the 1100 Broadway site, the top eight floors of which would be cantilevered over the Key System Building for additional square footage without the extra height with the two structures internally connected for continuous floorplates below.

While Oakland’s Design Review Committee has “voiced unanimous support for new development on the site,” its members have also voiced concerns that “the final design be contextual, compatible with its surroundings, and accepted by all segments of the community.”

And as such, the DRC recommended that Gensler return with a revised design for the project, which it did:

But having reviewed the revised design, the City’s Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board, which has also voiced their “support for new development on the site,” has now joined the DRC in expressing their “concerns regarding [a] contextual and compatible design.”

Keep in mind that Ellis Partners, which purchased the long-dormant project site a few months ago, has been aiming to break ground by the end of the year in order to have the new building, a third of which has been pre-leased to the University of California Office of the President, ready for occupancy in late 2019 or early 2020.

We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

30 thoughts on “Tower to Rise over Historic Building Raises Concerns”
  1. The originally planned, approved, and long delayed design was great! I don’t understand why the redesign was needed…

      1. I don’t always like reflexive negative design commentary, but this looks like something from a bad Transformers movie.

  2. I’m scratching my head and trying to figure out how that new design is in any way different or better than it was before. So the bays are moved around a little- so what? It was actually better before in my opinion.

    1. I agree, these are the kind of trivial changes which are known in some circles by unflattering names like “quibbling” or “not trying very hard”; then again maybe it’s the DRC’s fault and they just need to be more direct: “your design stinks.”

      Everyone might recall in the earlier…uhm, “spirited” discussion over optimal height(s), the opinion was voiced that the whole cantilever concept might prove not cost-effective…let’s hope that’s the case.

  3. Forget the cantilever, increase the height, cut down on the boxy edges, slim down the building and renovate the historic building with a foot bridge connecting the historic building with the modern sleek high-rise.

    The current design is ugly, bulky, and overpowers graceful and beautiful historic building.

  4. Ah yes, local bureaucracy doing everything they can to squeeze water out of a rock. Regardless, the Gensler design is pretty similar (if not better entirely) to the massing and materials of the earlier design and shouldn’t be getting any real flack. Though, as always, the ‘voiced concerns’ are relatively vague and slightly insuitive.

  5. Sure looks like the architects didn’t even try to incorporate the historic building into the design. FUGLY. Also, what he heck is up with the new building hanging over the historic one. Architect needs to be fired!!!

  6. This is disgusting. The cantilever over the beautiful old building is overbearing and shouldn’t be approved. A taller building entirely on its own footprint would be vastly superior to this hot mess.

    1. Overbearing? To whom? The building? The cantilever design is fine and works well in its surroundings…and doesn’t adversely impact the look or views of the historic building. You think this is bulky? A taller structure that some of you are proposing would not compliment (or complement) the historic building at all.

    2. Didn’t the earlier thread establish that seismic considerations make a taller building impossible?

      1. No it established that they affect the “pencilling out” point; the originally plan was for a slightly taller building (at least in terms of stories, I don’t believe the actual height in feet was mentioned) and buildings nearby [are] proposed at ~400′.

  7. “…its members have also voiced concerns that “the final design be contextual, compatible with its surroundings, and accepted by all segments of the community.””

    Although, I’m not a huge fan of the initial design (I like the cantilever idea, but the massing and façade treatment is boring), design-by-committee for the sake of unanimous approval from all segments of the community, will only end up with plain designs.

    Architecture should not be made to make everyone happy, because everyone won’t be happy. Architecture should take the context in consideration but they should not be bound by it.

    1. This. Happens here all the time, everyone is unhappy and we get boring by committee designs. Basically every major city in the country is doing more interesting things than we can here. The process is ridiculous.

  8. The intersecting geometries and contrast in facades add interest. The shapes communicate. The designers could go further and connect the two vertically with glass elevator bays that emerge from the top of the Key System building into the underside of the cantilever. How cool would that be. Never seen that before!

  9. Yes, this exactly what this project needs. More nitpicking from City bureaucrats and busybody commissioners. Because its not like this has been a half-abandoned lot and moldering, boarded up building for decades….

    Oh right, it has. This ain’t San Francisco. This is Oakland. Contra the Jean Quan’s unemployed Ivy League offspring, the development community is not beating down Oakland’s door putting up buildings as far as the eye can see. (I live here.) Get this thing approved post-haste before the UCOP changes its mind.

    1. Oakland deserves great architecture. Oakland has the lowest downtown vacancy rate of all cities in the United States. Oakland has a Downtown vacancy rate of 4.5% compared to 6.5% in SF. The reason that office buildings have been artificially depressed in Oakland is due to biased lending practices and land-banking by SF developers who would rather fill their expensive SF buildings while keeping potential new Oakland office supply off the market. There are currently over 3,000 housing units under construction in Oakland with over 20 high rises in the plans. So yeah, developers are now beating on the door in Oakland and Oakland deserves great architecture. Oakland doesn’t need to be dismissed or marginalized as “not being San Francisco.” Oakland doesn’t want to be SF.

      1. E. Gonsalves lives in the Star Trek: The Next Generation version of Oakland. The one where everybody is educated, polite, color-blind, and fully employed.

        I live in the Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome version. He should stop by for tea sometime and learn a few things. “Two man enter! One man leave… Bust a deal, spin the wheel..”

        1. Really? Mad max? I’ll have some tea at Fruitvale Station any time. If you think Fruitvale is rough you need to do a bit more traveling around the United States.

  10. Umm.. “accepted by all segments of the community” is a design stipulation? There are less roundabout ways to say “we want to delay this so long everybody gives up.” Leaving an empty lot next to an empty building for another generation.

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