Rick Holliday and Holliday Development, developers of our Emeryville Warehouse Lofts, is at it again after a four-year hiatus from E’ville. Holliday’s last Emeryville project was the 20-unit Blue Star Corner just prior to the 2008 real estate crash and since has completed the 163 unit Pacific Cannery Lofts in West Oakland. “The market’s improving so that people that do what I do are back to developing,” Holliday said. “It’s time to come up with new projects.” Holliday will be teaming up once again with David Baker + Partners Architects to bring their signature urban-industrial style to the former GMC Truck Showroom and more recently auto glass installation building on the prominent “Star intersection” of San Pablo, Adeline & West MacArthur. A style that actually contributes to the collective character of Emeryville and even honors its history (as opposed the “McCondo” aesthetic of Pulte and Archstone). The proposal signals that new housing activity is once again gaining traction in Emeryville.
Holliday and project manager Greg Pasquali presented a preliminary plan to Emeryville’s planning commission in February to rehabilitate the existing 25,000 sq. ft. commercial building with a five-story/65 ft. mixed use apartment building. The “MAZ” Building at 3800 San Pablo would be renovated & retrofitted to a new 100‐unit rental apartment building with a parking structure on the existing surface lot to the east. The existing commercial structure would be largely retained and rehabilitated including the north, west and southern portions of the building. Because the 1.1-acre site is partially in Oakland, one of the challenges was getting Oakland to cede jurisdiction for planning and approvals to Emeryville. A formal agreement has been reached and signed by Emeryville City Manager Patrick O’Keeffe and the Oakland Deputy City Administrator to allow the project to move forward.
The Emeryville Planning Commission was mostly receptive to the plan but made aesthetic and functional recommendations including the addition of a “green roof” to the existing building in order to mitigate the glare that would be seen from the connected residential unit. Concern was expressed regarding the massing of the building and that a few more elevations were needed in order to accurately assess its appearance. The Commission also commented on the need to provide a more detailed design for the public plaza and in general provide more open space that would be available to the public. A suggestion was made to move the residential lobby and the flexible space from the south side to the corner of 39th and Adeline Streets in order to shorten the walk to the bus stops on 40th Street. The addition of Bike lockers was suggested as a method of providing secured bike parking in addition to ample bike racks. Public improvements and energy efficiency were identified as preferred categories for obtaining bonus points for the proposed height, floor area ratio and residential density.
Sticking with the city’s new objective (and general plan amendment) to provide more “family friendly” housing, a request for additional two and three bedroom units was made by the commission. Holliday expressed a strong desire to compromise and was receptive to including more family units but expressed that the location, density and overall lack of family amenities would be challenging to attract them. Rick knows quite a bit about the subject of family housing and is the founder and current chairman of Bridge Housing a nonprofit whose existence is to in fact provide quality affordable family housing. “Doing family housing right is about creating whole buildings that attract families and include the right amenities for families, because then you get a critical mass which makes it a great magnet to other families” added project manager Greg Pasquali “We think the best strategy for meeting the City’s goal is finding ways that these two projects can work together (referring to the adjacent city-owned lot designated for mixed income family housing) – maybe our building provides retail or services that are valuable to families, maybe both buildings include architectural or artistic features that link them, etc. That creates the ‘Gateway to the City’ that so many people talk about when they talk about this area.” An interview with Rick and his views on the subjects of affordable housing and gentrification can be read on this SF Gate article. For a slightly more controversial angle on this subject, read Ken Bukowski’s EPOA blog post.
On the Southern end of the property will be a rain-garden park that will be funded as part of a Cal-Trans improvement project. The City Council also approved a contract with HQE for engineering and design services for improvements at the “star intersection”. The intersection itself will receive transit improvements funded by a $4.5 million “Safe Routes to Transit” grant. A signature piece of public art is also being commissioned for the corner.
The next step for the project will be to meet with Emeryville’s planning commission again in August and if everything proceeds as planned, the retail portion of the development could be complete in early 2014. There are no concrete deals with tenants but from conversations, Rick hinted that there had been inquiries for a possible brew-pub, Yoga Studio or Art Gallery. Rick hopes to capitalize on an area that has historically had difficulty getting traction as the neighboring Adeline Place corner retail space has been vacant since it’s development in 2010. Rick thinks this can be remedied by creating more inviting curb appeal and, more importantly, close adequate parking (50-60 spots) for customers. According to him, a retail hub could “activate” this area and create foot-traffic that could transform this blighted area. “It’s a good area to build high-quality housing,” Holliday said, citing its proximity to BART and freeways, and central location in the Bay Area.