Alameda Point Explained: Town center suitors

Alameda Point Explained: Town center suitors

Michele Ellson
Alameda Point

The city is contemplating proposals from nine developers who’ve signaled their interest in developing some or all of a planned 150-acre Alameda Point waterfront town center and commercial development area.

Back in May, the city sought out developers interested in building up to 800 homes, shops, office space and hotels on the 68-acre town center parcel along Seaplane Lagoon and a major corporate campus or an outlet mall on an adjacent 82 acres; nine responded with proposals. The City Council, which signed off on a detailed plan for the town center on July 15, is expected to consider finalists to develop the Point’s future core in September.

So who are these developers, and what do they bring to the table? The mix includes big, national firms and smaller local ones, urban and suburban homebuilders, property managers and money men. Here’s the quick-and-dirty on each developer and team.

1. Alameda Point Partners - Thompson Dorfman Partners, SRM Ernst Development Partners and Madison Marquette (town center only)

HEADQUARTERS: Mill Valley/Oakland/Washington, D.C.

PRIMARY BUSINESS: Thompson Dorfman develops apartments and condominiums “on well-sited, urban infill and mixed-use properties located in high-growth, technology-driven markets in the western U.S.”; SRM Ernst is a Bay Area business park developer. Madison Marquette is a national property management and development firm with a focus on retail.

DEVELOPMENTS: SRM Ernst is well known to locals as the developer of the Harbor Bay Business Park; its development projects also include the Zhone Technologies building in Oakland and a mixed-use project that included office space and facilities for San Jose State University. Madison Marquette’s portfolio stretches across 14 states and Washington, D.C.; its California projects include the development and management of the Bay Street shopping center in Emeryville and the Bayfair shopping center in San Leandro. Thompson Dorfman, which has projects all over California, built the housing that sits on top of Bay Street’s shops.

2. Brookfield Residential (town center only)

HEADQUARTERS: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

PRIMARY BUSINESS: The company builds mostly single family homes across the U.S. and in Canada, with about half its business in Canada, a fifth in California and the rest spread across Denver; Phoenix; Austin; and Washington, D.C.

DEVELOPMENTS: Brookfield, which has developed neighborhoods along the fringes of the Bay Area is now selling homes in two South Bay communities, in Dublin and Lathrop, in San Joaquin County. The company is set to build the reportedly recession-stalled 1,645-home, 300-acre University Park housing development in Rohnert Park in 2015, with smaller homes than originally planned. Also on the company’s to-do list: Single-family and townhome developments in Dublin, Dixon and Oakley and a luxury home development on the edge of Hayward’s Stonebrae Country Club.

ADDITIONAL INFO: The shareholder-owned company, which controls more than 110,000 lots and $3.3 billion in assets, bills itself as the fifth largest residential developer in North America.

3. Catellus


PRIMARY BUSINESS: Originally a subsidiary of two railroad companies that was bought and then sold by warehouse giant ProLogis in the heat of the recession, Catellus has built everything from apartments and single-family homes to shopping centers and business parks. Many of the sites the company has built on are urban infill and former industrial properties that required environmental cleanup.

DEVELOPMENTS: Here in Alameda, the developer built the Bayport housing development and is in the process of building homes and a Target- and Safeway-anchored shopping center in its new Alameda Landing development. Other developments the company has worked on include San Francisco’s Mission Bay, a 303-acre waterfront development containing homes, commercial space, and a University at California, San Francisco biotech campus; The Glen, a 92-acre business park that’s part of the redevelopment of the former Glenview Naval Air Station in Glenview, Ill.; and Pacific Commons in Fremont, an 840-acre commercial center that, when completed, is to include 1.1 million square feet of chain retail and a 3.4 million square foot office park.

ADDITIONAL INFO: While city leaders selected Catellus as Alameda’s master developer for the Bayport and Alameda Landing projects – both on former military sites – the council rebuffed Catellus’s earlier bid to be the master developer at the Point in favor of SunCal Companies.

4. CIM Group


PRIMARY BUSINESS: CIM Group is an investment firm whose holdings range from lofts to hotels and retail hubs in large and mid-size American cities; many of its holdings are in Southern California. The company has also invested in renewable energy companies and cities seeking to redevelop flagging commercial areas.

DEVELOPMENTS: After then-Mayor Jerry Brown announced his plan to bring 6,000 new market rate housing units to downtown Oakland and the city plunked down $54.2 million for new projects intended to spur redevelopment, the company bought Oakland’s two downtown hotels – giving it control of 93 percent of the city’s hotel rooms – and also, 1.7 million square feet of office space along Lake Merritt and Oakland’s City Center. The company’s other investments include a Phillipe Starck-designed hotel in Miami Beach and a Toronto-based solar energy company, and it also helped refinance debt on the Trump SoHo, a luxury hotel-condominium project in New York.

5. Mission Bay Development Group


PRIMARY BUSINESS: Mission Bay bills itself as a development management consulting firm specializing in urban infill, mixed use and brownfield redevelopment.

DEVELOPMENTS: The company has handled a handful of projects; its flagship is San Francisco’s Mission Bay, a 303-acre mixed use project on the city’s waterfront that includes 6,000 new homes, 4.4 million square feet of office and biotech space, the aforementioned UCSF campus, a hotel and parks. The project brought jobs and housing together in one place, adjacent to transit on an underused urban space – the hallmarks of “smart growth.” Mission Bay also managed the development of San Diego’s Santa Fe Place, a mixed-use, transit oriented project that included restoration of the historic Santa Fe Depot.

ADDITIONAL INFO: Mission Bay and Catellus worked together on both the Mission Bay project in San Francisco and Alameda’s Bayport housing development.

6. Rising Realty Partners/Summit Land Partners (town center only)

HEADQUARTERS: Los Angeles/Newport Beach

PRIMARY BUSINESS: Rising Realty bills itself as “a full-service real estate platform” whose services include acquisition and property management and development. Summit’s work focuses on homes, mixed-use and land reuse projects.

DEVELOPMENTS: Rising Realty manages a dozen office buildings across Southern California; Summit’s single project, a planned mixed-use development on the site of the old Mayfield mall on the Palo Alto-Mountain View border to be built in partnership with William Lyon Homes, was reportedly sold in 2012 to a development team seeking to build offices there.

7. Tim Lewis Communities (town center only)

HEADQUARTERS: Roseville, Calif.

PRIMARY BUSINESS: Tim Lewis is a homebuilder, with projects in Northern California and Northern Nevada.

DEVELOPMENTS: Tim Lewis Communities is well known to Alamedans as the developer who purchased the historic Del Monte Warehouse and the 13-acre Encinal Terminals property behind it; the developer is proposing more than 900 housing units on the two Northern Waterfront properties. The developer is also in contract to purchase Neptune Pointe, a federal government property across the street from Crab Cove long coveted by the East Bay Regional Park District. But its proposal to build 48 single-family homes there was put on hold in 2012, and the City Council has since voted to rezone the property as park space.

ALSO: A company rep told the San Francisco Business Times that Tim Lewis has been cut from the list of contenders to develop the town center site.

8. Trumark


PRIMARY BUSINESS: The collection of companies develops a range of housing types and commercial properties across the Bay Area.

DEVELOPMENTS: Trumark has built single-family and townhome projects in several Bay Area suburbs; its commercial wing has acquired, renovated or built office, research and development and retail space across the Bay Area. Another arm, Trumark Urban, is building on or repurposing more than a half dozen spaces across San Francisco as housing.

ADDITIONAL INFO: Among Trumark’s projects is a new community of homes, offices, hotels and retail development in the city of Fonatana that offers a “mixed-use, Tuscan villa environment.”

9. Williams & Dame/Zelman Development Co./Langley Investment Properties (town center only)

HEADQUARTERS: Portland/ Los Angeles/Portland

PRIMARY BUSINESS: Williams & Dame is a master developer that acquires property and prepares it for development; Zelman is a commercial real estate firm with a half century’s worth of experience that primarily builds shopping centers. Langley is a capital management and investment firm with properties in Portland and San Francisco.

DEVELOPMENTS: Williams & Dame worked with a Seattle builder to construct a hotel and conference center development in Los Angeles largely financed with money from foreign investors, and the company also built a trio of residential towers; the company also partnered with Portland’s redevelopment agency and Oregon Health and Sciences University to redevelop a 35-acre brownfield on the banks of the Willamette River. Zelman’s projects include “power centers” – shopping centers with 250,000 square feet of retail space or more, typically populated by big-box stores – in Anaheim, Petaluma and Monterey. Langley’s properties include the Orrick Building in San Francisco and a Portland apartment building.


Submitted by cBell (not verified) on Thu, Jul 24, 2014

As a life long resident of Alameda my first concern is the waterfront surrounding Alameda Point. I would like to see all waterfront kept open to the public to gain access and enjoy the fabulous views it offers. If housing is to be built, have them built away from all shorelines at the Point, again...allowing public access to all shoreline. Restore the former base marina area as a marina again. There is nothing more peaceful than being able to just sit by the water and quietly meditate. I would like to see more commercial than residential being developed at Alameda Point without a "high-rise" appearance. For me, it is all about public accessibility and the view of San Francisco. That being said, how can we block the view from the estuary side? The cranes/seaport in Oakland is less than desirable.

Submitted by Sarah (not verified) on Thu, Jul 24, 2014

I totally agree with you, cBell, about keeping all of the waterfront accessible to the public! And, I agree with you about the emphasis on commercial (although some residential is necessary). However, I think the commercial focus should not just be on high-volume or "destination" retail. We would do well to bring in well-paying white collar jobs (think office park), not just minimum wage retail jobs (think outlet mall). I can imagine lots of start-up tech companies finding Alameda Point to be desirable and more affordable than SF or Silicon Valley, and just a short, scenic ferry ride from SF.

As a resident of a residential area very near to the Hornet and one of the Point areas zoned for "enterprise", I would welcome incoming commuters Mon-Fri much more than the type of weekend traffic that floods in for the Antiques Faire every month!

In my view, this would best balance the needs and desires of current and future Alameda residents for minimal impact on the off-island commute, matching new jobs with new homes, and maintaining a reasonably peaceful and quiet Alameda life with the inevitable growth.

Submitted by Brock (not verified) on Thu, Jul 24, 2014

Ah yes - nothing says "Alameda Charm" like acres and acres of beautiful office parks. Office parks as far as the eye can see. Except for a small strip of waterfront so the folks can stroll along with the Bay on one side and Initech on the other.

Except on the Estuary side. Please force (the city can do that right?) in some businesses that will open up a 7 story wall of office parks over there.

Submitted by Sarah (not verified) on Fri, Jul 25, 2014

Brock, I never said I thought we should have "acres and acres" of office parks. Personally, I would love nothing more than to see the entire Point turned into a natural park and wildlife refuge. That isn't going to happen. But in the areas zoned for commercial (like the "enterprise zone" near my neighborhood), I would rather have an office park go in than an outlet mall, which is rumored to have been considered for that location.

Around the new Town Center, I could see locally-owned and charming retail along with the homes. But if they've already decided something large and clunky should be built adjacent to our existing residential neighborhood, I'd prefer that it provide high-quality jobs and a bunch of incoming commuters rather than a deluge of weekend traffic. (And I hope whatever it is doesn't require tearing out the stand of cypress trees there.)

Submitted by G.Howell (not verified) on Fri, Jul 25, 2014

Building on land that will soon be underwater or completely destroyed in "the big one". Also, I don't believe that the Navy has completely cleaned up all the toxic. I think it still is and always be a dangerous place to be. I have no plans to go there.

Submitted by Duke (not verified) on Fri, Jul 25, 2014

As a resident of Alameda and employer at Alameda Point, I find it disturbing to hear talk of only high paying white collar jobs or low paying retail jobs. I remember when middle class blue collar jobs were desirable. Alameda, Don't forget your roots!

Submitted by Sarah (not verified) on Sat, Jul 26, 2014

Good point, Duke. Rather than just well-paying white collar jobs, I'll say I'd like to see well-paying employment of any kind at the Point.

Submitted by Alan D. (not verified) on Mon, Jul 28, 2014

I have just one question: How are they planning on getting the large number of people that this new project will attract in and out of Alameda without disrupting the already congested "normal" traffic? Do they expect the Posy tube to be able to handle this new influx and how are you going to get others who might enter town from Park or High Sts. across town easily?

Submitted by Cynthia (not verified) on Tue, Jul 29, 2014

I believe I've brought up this point before: are any of these going to offer reasonably priced housing?

There isn't any housing to be found on Alameda for less than $300k... 1bed places are going over $300k. The newest homes being built are starting at $500k. You'd have to earn over $140k/year for that.

I know there are others like my husband and I who want to stay and have a family here, but literally don't see any way to have a foundation here. Make too much to be low-income, but make too little to be rich.