Plans to demolish the mall portion of the Kaiser Center complex at 300 Lakeside Drive in Oakland and build two skinny office towers rising up to 574 feet in height on the site, with a combined total of 1.5 million square feet of new office space, were approved back in 2011.

While the entitlements to build were only valid for three years and slated to expire in 2014, they were subsequently extended to the end of this year.

And having filed a pre-application earlier this year, the project team is now preparing to file a formal request to modify the approved plans to include a shorter, but wider, 28-story office tower rising up to 415 feet in height at the corner of 21st and Webster with 850,000 square feet of space and larger floorplates (“in response to office market desires”) along with a 40-story residential tower rising up to 429 feet along 20th Street.

As recently massed by Gensler, the proposed residential tower could yield up to 580 residential units along with 13,000 square feet of new ground floor retail space and a 60,000-square-foot parking garage.

We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

39 thoughts on “The Master Plan for Two New Kaiser Center Towers to Rise”
  1. Wow, these are so uninspired and fugly that I’m not sure they were drawn up in the 1970s or 80s… What a shame…

    1. What about that circular looking building? I don’t see much reference in the article. That might be kinda cool….

        1. Ahhh yes thank you I know that building I see it correctly now.

          Too bad cause a tall skinny pencil like building might actually look pretty cool right in this mix…. breaking up the wide bulk of the buildings already there (and proposed).

          With the narrowing of Harrison and the reconstruction and park enhancements around the lake almost done this area, with the iconic cathedral of light next door…. really could be amazing.

          A 600-800ft skinny pencil tower or otherwise interesting building amoungst these existing bulky boxes would be quite awesome.

        1. “La plus ça change?” How so? Are you claiming that “SF’s massive office building boom” has largely “bypassed Oakland” as it did thirty years ago in the Reagan era? That would entail a rather fantastical claim, in light of some twenty projects and building cranes located throughout today’s Oakland, a reality that the world’s media has noted when reporting on Oakland for matters that don’t even have to do with the very building boom that, well, a “plus-ça-change-plus-c’est-la-même-chose” reality would preclude entirely.

          Indeed, such cheery white racists such as “BBQ Betty” and “Jogger Joe” represent the Discontents of Oakland’s Gentrification and its Discontents. I’m a big (“yuuuuuuuge”) supporter of Oakland’s renaissance, and especially the too long delayed build-up of its Downtown, my deep qualms about those Discontents notwithstanding.

          So, I’m rather at a point between befuddled and bewildered as to your resort to the French axiom. Did you mean to critique the rather staid and moribund high rise style choices Oakland’s perfidiously stupid development office treasonously favours?

          1. It was a comment that each building “boom” – or even “boomlet”, which is how I would describe current conditions (at least in terms of office development) – is accompanied by an article (or -s) that it’s unprecedented – or practically so – and Oakland is poised to finally catch-up with its neighbor to the west; which all sounds very exciting until one runs across an article like this, whose the-Millenium-has-arrived enthusiasm would look – and does look, hence its citation – familiar today.
            For reference, a person who stands in the roof garden – perhaps upon one of those mid-century-Mod benches – and pirouuettes would view during their panorama no fewer than six buildings – including two of the city’s five tallest – that were erected during the 80’s and which encompass several million square feet….a goodly chunk of DO’s space.

          2. Notcom:

            By square footage currently under construction––ranging from the billion-and-a-half dollar Brooklyn Basin, JLS housing and offices, Valdez and Broadway housing projects, six mixed-use high-rises (twenty stories plus), and the office spaces on Broadway and 13th and the Shorenstein (not to mention various other large-scale developments ranging from Pill Hill to West Oakland and on over to Temescal), to claim that Oakland currently experiences a “boomlet” is condescension bordering on mendacity.

            The current square footage under construction in the DO area alone surpasses construction activity dating back to Oakland’s last bona fide boom, the pre-war years. Oakland is experiencing a bona fide “building boom” by any definition, whatever the merits of the design concepts and the social dislocations such construction and its end results have unleashed.

          3. I don’t recall ever being compared to Liz Taylor, but I’ll take it as a compliment. Anyway, I definitely agree with you about the pre-war years boom: in that decade or so before Gulf War 1.0 we saw the seven buildings in this environs (Kaiser Engineers, World Savings, Lake Merritt Plaza, PacBell, Caltrans, Lake Merritt Tower, 180 Grand) while deeper in the core we had 1111 Broadway, the Marriott, EBMUD, Transpacific Center, that trio of OB’s along 14th St, and – of course the Federal Building (which skates along the edge of the period but was well underway before Kuwait was liberated).

            Does this “boom/-let” exceed that in gsf? Perhaps; but of course my point wan’t about size, per se, it was that just as that outburst was apparently forgotten by current writers, and as such obviously failed to liberate the East(bay) from the tyranny of domination by the West, so too will this one struggle in that same pursuit..

          4. Sorry to be off-topic, but “pre-war”?? That always denoted before WW II to me, following wars haven’t really changed history in my eyes. But other than that I think you have a valid point.

          5. Yes, for me too; but it was actually Mr. Fancysteak’s phrase, and since – as I hoped my post showed – the last big “boom” was in the 80’s, I had to assume he was actually referring to the War that followed that.

  2. What does Oakland have against a real high-rise. More mediocre mid-rises to add to the bland and boxy skyline.

    1. Oakland has a cool skyline. The Tribune Tower, City Hall, Cathedral Building, twin tower Federal Building, and the iconic Kaiser Center are all pretty cool. But I do agree that Oakland needs a 500ft to 600ft exclamation mark on its skyline.

      1. Oakland does have an interesting skyline, what with the buildings you’ve described. However, the truly iconic Kaiser Center dates back nearly sixty years. Likewise, the near-iconic twin tower Federal Building dates back to the 1990s, if memory serves.

        Oakland is due for a true set of “break-out” high rises, along the lines of the lamentably, nay criminally, rejected and breathtakingly bold 1261 Harrison Street High rise, which the Oakland planning and development offices rejected precisely because it was stunningly bold and beautiful (the departments opted to “preserve” a run-down, inconsequential commercial structure built in the twentieth century by a once prominent Oakland family that, in fact, never attained the stature nor contributed to The Town as did a truly iconic Oakland dynasty, the Kaisers).

        Nothing makes this wag and gadfly happier to see Oakland’s downtown rise, literally, again. But this renaissance needs a breakout, distinctive, iconic set of buildings to herald Oakland’s rebirth after what (the very, very) Fabulous Negrito so evocatively sang of the “Last Days of Oakland,” his elegy for hard-bitten Oakland of the late twentieth century and simultaneous, if ironic, celebration of the revitalized, reclaimed, and re-imagined Oakland of the twenty-first century.

        1. I agree. The newer architecture in Oakland needs to be bolder and more dynamic. Oakland has some amazing historic older buildings such as the Lemington, Latham, Bruners, etc.. The new architecture needs to inspire and do justice to the many historic beauties in DTO.

          So far, I like what I’m seeing at 601 City Center and the beautiful new Art Deco 21 story residential building, which just took out a building permit for 24th & Webster, adjacent to the YMCA parking garage.

          This is a very exciting time as we see Oakland transform before our eyes. We are seeing the making of a wonderful walkable downtown, linked to three BART station, in a city at the geographical center of the Bay Area and with one of the best climates in the world.

    2. You clearly need to look up the definition of “high-rise”, if you think a 400-foot tower doesn’t qualify as one.

      1. From a skyline perspective they are not impressive and look boxy. I agree with E. Gonsalves. One sleek tower to stand out and add some interest. cfb, I’m not sure why you have to speak in such an insulting tone. This is a conversation about buildings.

  3. Looks like they want to obliterate a (large) part of the current – historic?? – roof garden…and extend it over to 20th (I assume as compensation); so I guess my question is: what if the 21st/Webster one goes up first – i.e. that obliterates – but the other one is delayed/never built?? Will they demolish the top floor of the old White House and extend it anyway, or will we just be out half a park ??

  4. Interring that while major residential projects like One Oak and 524 Howard are being abandoned in SF new residential projects are being proposed for Oakland. SF in many cases no longer pencils while Oakland does.

    As to office towers. New proposals for such have come to a halt in SF. Prop M is one factor (the Flower Mart proposal would take 3 years plus worth of the M large cap and 5M seems to be being slow walked if not totally re-thought) but the other is the fact the city is built out. The SE waterfront is taken already and no new major office projects are set till open until the Claw in 2021 and the Chase office component. After that no one knows. Unlikely SF will see a single 800K tower going forward. It’s all good. Breed, if she wins, should support a 10 year moratorium on new offices – including no approval for the HP/VCP office component which may be in trouble anyway – in SF and direct the city’s focus to the housing crisis.

    1. I tend to agree. I have never seen a building boom in Oakland in my lifetime like we are seeing right now. I believe the last count was 18 construction cranes currently in Oakland with at least four more to rise soon.

    2. To say central SF is built out is utterly ridiculous. There are still a lot of small parking lots in the core, countless larger ones in The broader SOMA area, and hundreds if not thousands of misc 2-3 story (of no historical significance) buildings that could easily be sold off and developed more densely. True the major large land plots are taken, but densyfying and infill still has decades of opportunity.

      If the 4th and king railyard is moved or undergrounded that will create a massive new development opportunity.

    3. And the streets! Don’t forget that perfectly buildable 68’6″ space bordering each block that’s now going to waste being given over to cars: once Uber…

      DSF isn’t so much “built up” in the literal sense that there’s no more space available, but rather that it’s reaching capacity in it’s ability to bring people in to work there (maybe being a peninsula has something to do with that?) Asking commuters in CoCo (and the rest of the Eastbay) to pony up ever growing amounts for the privlege of paying for someone else’s commute may eventually not work, it barely worked this time.

      1. Yes, everyday is like the invasion of Normandy in order to get East Bay workers to cross a 5 mile wide Bay to get to work on a Peninsula. This is why this proposed office building near Lake Merritt needs to be much taller. We need more offices in centrally located Oakland so that East Bay residents don’t have to cross the Bay for work.

        1. Well put on the invasion of Normandie! So true. I do agree OAK really needs to step it up with some major offices and housing and SF needs to focus on housing more, esp downtown.

          There is huge opp for capacity still though, the problem is as we all know our poor near sighted thinking on transit capacity.

  5. Watching the Warriors parade as it rounds along Lake Merritt on my other browser tab and catching aerial views of the Kaiser Center really reinforces how iconic this site is.

    I won’t opine on the new architecture as I know it will be refined multiple times. I appreciate the civic gesture of the grand staircase along Webster and Berkley Way that leads up to hidden oasis above. (If you haven’t visited the roof garden yet please do so!)

    1. You are so right about the lovely Kaiser Center roof garden. I hope they don’t ruin this beautiful oasis.

      1. There’s nothing wrong with that level of density, but I am mildly concerned about the loss of park space. This design would likely block out all sun after noon and make that space windier. A lot of people use that roof park to get some quiet and fresh air. Uptown Oakland has plenty of park space along the lake, but little actually in the neighborhood.

        I’m in favor of more and even bigger towers, but it seems like we have plenty of ground level parking lots and abandoned 1 story buildings to build on top of before considering building on park space. That said, if this does get built it certainly wouldn’t be apocalyptic.

        1. I think this is one of those unhappy situations where we’re confronted with “developing one’s property, optimally” vs. “developing the area, optimally”: wouldn’t it be great if Kaiser bought up that (partial) block of undistinguished buildings to the west and put their building(s) there ?? (That the CNA would have to find a new home would be a side effect…or benefit). But no, that would involve more cost, and Kaiser is logically – if not munificently – concerned with maximizing what it already controls.

  6. Downtown Oakland really sparkled during the Warriors parade. Oakland probably has the most beautiful historic downtown architecture in the Bay Area. The place is turning into a real jewel with amazing historic architecture combined with so much new construction. Oakland is turning into a mini upper east side, particularly near the Lake. Let’s not waste this prime Lake Merritt site on some squat mediocre buildings. Time for some signature buildings on these parcels.

  7. That’s only enough parking for about 300 cars, which is more than none but less than 1:1 with the unit count. I somewhat approve.

    1. This is not the final design. The building renderings are for bulking purposes. They need two taller and elegant buildings on these parcels. The street access to the beautiful roof garden is a great addition and huge improvement.

      1. As reported, rendered (with respect to footprint, mass and height), and outlined above, the two towers would actually be shorter and squatter than originally approved, not taller and skinnier.

      2. The residential building has reasonable proportions but the office building as rendered completely lack elegance. I realize the cost per sf goes up the taller they build, but one can always hope.

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