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May 20, 2016

Exclusive: Another new player enters Oakland with 416-unit project

San Francisco Business Times

Roland Li

The Martin Group has proposed a 416-unit residential project in downtown Oakland, another example of a new developer entering the East Bay city.

The proposal, for two lots at 301 12th St. and 285 12th St., is potentially one of the largest projects in Oakland's downtown core.

It isn't clear if the Martin Group is buying the project from the soon-to-be new owner, Forma LLC, or if the company is forming a joint venture. Walid Mando's Forma LLC is in contract to buy the site, which has been owned by the Cochran family for decades, according to public records.

The site is within the Lake Merritt Station Area Plan, passed in December 2014, which anticipates 4,900 new housing units, 4,100 new jobs, 404,000 square feet of new retail and 1.2 million square feet of office development over the next 25 years.

Other projects within the area include EBALDC's 71-unit affordable project at 1110 Jackson St., which is under construction, and UrbanCore and EBALDC's controversial Lake Merritt tower proposal, which is being reviewed by the city. The area hasn't seen as many development proposals as the Broadway-Valdez district, another area where the city passed a specific plan, in part because there aren't as many large underutilized parcels.

Justin Osler of the Martin Group didn't immediately respond to requests seeking more details of the project. Mando declined to comment, but he told the Business Times in October that he has been "bombarded" by offers from companies that wanted to acquire the site.

Brokerage HFF has been marketing the site on behalf of Mando to potential investors.

There has been a flurry of recent offerings of Oakland development sites. A parking complex at 1314 Franklin St. is being sold for a residential highrise, and another parcel, at 150 Grand Ave., near Lake Merritt is also on the market.

Projects that have gained approvals have attracted new major investors who haven't previously built new Oakland projects, including CityView and the Blackstone Group(NYSE: BX), the Carlyle Group(NASDAQ: CG), Lane Partners, and the Hanover Group.

"I'd say there remains very strong interest in Oakland, in spite of the new affordable structure," said Stephen Saffold, a land broker with the Agency, referring to new affordable housing impact fees starting in September. "Latecomers are looking to enter the fray, and groups who already have a deal here are looking for another one or two. There are some huge deals in the making as we speak. Hard costs have not abated, and with the fees and pipeline, there is definitely a higher level of caution at this stage, but the belief in the story and fundamentals has not wavered. If anything, it's still growing."

David Wientjes and Jeffrey Hutchins of Kidder Mathews have been marketing the property where the Martin Group wants to build on behalf of its longtime owners, the Cochran family. The land didn't have an asking price and it's unclear what the sales price will be, but two sources tracking land sales said that Mando was seeking a higher price than what he was paying for the land, in part because of Uber Technologies Inc.'s impending arrival in Oakland and soaring residential rents.

The Martin Group has previously built projects in Emeryville, San Francisco and Marin County, but this appears to be its first Oakland project.

For the full story, go to San Francisco Business Times.

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