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The 2016 Commercial Real Estate Story

Been to the Port of Oakland’s Jack London Square lately? If you have, then you’ve experienced its new vibrancy with more than 55 free public events at the Oakland waterfront. The Square continues to be a center of celebration. Urban developer CIM Group manages the Square, which drew a record 3 million visitors last year.

Festivals at Jack London Square generate community good will, inject economic vitality into local businesses, and put people to work.

Eat Real, the annual three-day food festival in Jack London Square (JLS), attracted tens of thousands of visitors in 2016. Pedalfest, celebrating all things bicycle, and Farmers Market every Sunday, contributed to the 1.75 million people who attended special events at JLS.

Nearly 590,000 ferry riders came to Jack London Square to cross the San Francisco Bay on ferry boats. Thousands more worked at the Square’s office buildings, ate in its restaurants, or sailed out of its marinas.

Jack London Square is part of the Port’s Commercial Real Estate Division, which is responsible for overseeing more than 800 acres of Port land that is not used for aviation or maritime purposes. It manages waterfront properties along the Oakland Estuary and elsewhere including Embarcadero Cove and properties in the Oakland Airport Business Park. Restaurants, retail, and events like the Oakland A’s FanFest in 2017 will have visitors flocking to the Square, once again.

Despite a competitive real estate market, there was only a 3 percent vacancy rate in the Port’s Commercial Real Estate portfolio in 2016. Nearly all the office space on Port property is leased and several new tenants were added. Sunset Inc., the renowned western lifestyle publication house, moved into its new Jack London Square headquarters in January 2016, occupying the entire second floor of 55 Harrison St.

In March 2016 the Port approved the assignment of numerous long-term ground leases in Jack London Square from Jack London Square Ventures to CIM Group. The Group has substantial experience in developing and operating urban, mixed-use complexes.

Minutes from the Square going south along the Oakland Estuary is Brooklyn Basin. This area, formerly called Oak-to-Ninth Avenue, when held by the Port, is an underutilized industrial waterfront district. Over the next few years, this 64-acre site is expected to undergo substantial redevelopment as a new residential neighborhood by private developer, Zarsion-OHPI, LLC. The $1.5 billion investment will transform the area into a mixed-use waterfront community with housing, retail, public open space, marina improvements and public promenades. California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. estimated that the project has the potential to deliver thousands of short and long-term jobs.

Changes at Jack London Square are part of what’s called the JLS Phase II Project and include:

  • Construction of a 170,000 square-foot marketplace building (completed);
  • Enhanced public access and improved pedestrian experience along the waterfront (substantially completed); and
  • Construction of a full service hotel.

Once Phase II is completed and operational, it’s expected to provide public benefits, including 650 jobs during the construction phase and attractive new public waterfront access.

The 170,000-square-foot marketplace building in Jack London Square is the centerpiece of the project. All the office space on upper floors is leased. The remaining ground floor is in negotiations for a public market, intended to showcase fresh, sustainable foods produced within the region.

CIM Group is working to attract new tenants to the remaining available retail spaces in the Square. It has also secured new land-use entitlement approvals for two, new, multifamily residential buildings adjacent to Jack London Square on privately owned land. The buildings would increase foot traffic and the vitality of the area.

Most people don’t think of the Port as owning parks but approximately 630 acres of public parks and public access are located within the Port’s Commercial Real Estate portfolio, comprising more than 75 percent of its holdings. While these open space properties do not generate revenue for the Port, they provide an important waterfront recreational amenity for the public.