Wareham Development’s EmeryStation West & Heritage Square projects are off and running after receiving their building and grading permits earlier this year. The under-construction office tower and parking garage projects near the Emeryville Amtrak station will be part of an “East Bay/TransBay Transit Center” and the latest addition to Emeryville’s growing Biotech corridor. These projects have been in the planning stages for nearly a decade.
The project is being led by Wareham partner Geoff Sears who previously likened it to the East Bay’s version of SF’s Transbay Transit Center. The project’s scope of work consists of a 9-story tower with 260,000 square feet of office and research space and an adjacent parking structure that will accommodate 675 parking spaces.
The 165-foot tall tower was designed by architecture and design firm Perkins+Will will also feature:
- 4 Amtrak bus bays
- A new elevated public plaza
- 3,620 square feet of ground floor commercial space.
The project’s path to construction was a long one and had its share of challenges. The site of the tower project was a former Westinghouse electrical repair facility and a designated EPA Brownfield site that required extensive remediation. After the Environmental Impact Report’s (EIR) initial study and mitigated negative declaration was published in 2009, the project was not initially approved by our Planning Commission. Wareham went on to file for a two-year extension of the project in 2012. The applicant then filed for their development agreement to lock in entitlements for five years with the Planning Commission in 2013, where the vote was met with deadlock and proceeded to Council without a recomendation.
Some Councilmembers had reservations about the project related to environmental cleanup, use of public money, public benefit and the addition of parking that would generate car trips into our city. Deciding Councilmember Ruth Atkin ultimately backed the project calling it a “once in a multi-generational opportunity to do the job right.” Atkin also noted it would join Wareham’s other nearby properties to complete Wareham’s vision for a research and technology campus and attract some of the areas brightest minds. The agreement was approved by City Council in January of 2014 with a 3-2 council vote.
The project was also stalled by the loss of Redevelopment in 2011. $4.2 million for the bridge podium construction, public parking and bus bays remained tied up in the courts until the City of Emeryville successfully won its suit against the State Department of Finance. When the project broke ground, the project encountered some controversy with the City of Richmond over the temporary storage of some soil that Wareham responded to responsibly.
Wareham has disproved the naysayers before by spearheading the Emeryville Amtrak Station that has become an essential hub of the Capitol Corridor commuter rail line. If Emeryville is to ever build a street car as has been discussed, the Transit Center would likely be a hub for it.
The SF Business Times noted in September that Wareham does not have any major tenants locked in but office space is said to be in demand with low vacancy rates across in the East Bay and SF. According to brokers, office space rents have recently hit as high as $60 per square foot in the Emeryville area. The two structures combined are speculated to cost upwards of $100 million. Construction is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2017.
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