Nov 112007

Core of Oakland town center will become government service center

By Francine Brevetti, STAFF WRITER

The new owner of the Eastmont Town Center is preparing to redesign and, he hopes, revitalize the long-troubled shopping mall.

ScanlanKempBard of Portland acquired the property in March for $78 million. This month it will submit design plans to the city of Oakland for approval.

The retail installation has known rocky times over the past decades. Many would say it has been a disappointment to its neighborhood’s consumers.

The Eastmont mall consists of an outer retail installation surrounding an inner core of offices and storefronts.

“Our intent is to take the inner component and develop it for a number of government services, make it into a government service center, rather than the failing retail mall it is now,” President Tom Gooding said.

The mixed-use property at 7000 Bancroft Ave. consists of a two-story mall, and a single-story in-line retail building.

Gooding claimed to have “strong relationships” with the government tenants currently situated atEastmont Town Center. The company is continuing to talk to city, county and federal agencies to stimulate more such tenants.

As for the retail part, “we’re going to give a facelift to the strip center (storefront retail portion) and landscape. The facade enhancement will stimulate retail,” Gooding said.

Eastmont Oakland LLC and Eastmont Town Center Co. LLC of Oakland sold the 605,959-square-foot project to the current owners. The past two decades’ owners failed to make the mall a thriving retail hub. When the anchor retailers, JCPenney and Mervyns, moved out of Eastmont Town Center in the early 1990s, they took the heart out of the retail trade there.

Despite this history, Gooding thinks ScanlanKemperBard can make the revamped project a success.

“The neighborhood at the time had a lot of issues, and fewer people wanted to go to that area. But now gentrification is now going on in the area. Real estate values are going up, and people are starting to care about that area more,” he remarked.

Currently, the plaza has very little by way of retail except for Gazzalli’s Market. Among its tenants are the Oakland Police Department, a public library, various city services and nonprofits and a Social Security office.

Julie Taylor, a broker at Cornish & Carey, which is handling the project, observed, “It’s a great opportunity for Oakland now. You see a resurgence of box tenants — large, value-oriented retailers like Ross — moving into downtown San Francisco even without oceans of parking. So if they’re pursuing San Francisco, eventually movement will come to Oakland.”

Taylor reported that two letters of intent from retailers were about to be negotiated, a task that may take several weeks.

“But before this time next year we will have a new and renovated, vital project,” she said.

ScanlanKemperBard boasts a $2.25 billion portfolio of properties. In Oakland, it owns the Broadway Webster Medical Building on Pill Hill and office space at Jackson and 11th; the Westgate Building in San Leandro; office space in downtown Berkeley; and the San Francisco Gift Center and Jewelry Mart.

 Posted by at 2:17 pm

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