A historic downtown building that has been vacant since the Loma Prieta earthquake has been renovated and is open for new lessees.
Originally the Union Bank building when it was built in 1904, the building at 13th and Broadway fell into decrepitude after the 1989 earthquake.Today, the exterior of the building at 428 13th St. is completely refurbished, burnished with brass hardware. The building’s 11 floors will be leased or sold as condominiums to commercial and professional outfits. Three retail units are ready to rent on the Broadway side, as well. The units are partially finished, awaiting the needs of future tenants.Local businessman Mo Mashhoon, an investor in petroleum distribution and service stations, acquired the dark and dusty hulk of a building three years ago for $6 million. He said he spent more than $7 million rehabilitating the property.He also received a $50,000 grant from the Downtown Redevelopment Agency to help with the renovations.”I have some passion for historic buildings,” Mashhoon said, who has a history of renovating properties.In 2007, Mashhoon renovated the 19th-century Hanifin Block, a set of buildings at 19th Street and San Pablo Avenue in Oakland. The transformation — aided by a $20,000 grant from the city’s facade improvement program — added residential condominiums and six floors of commercial space.The Oakland Heritage Alliance commended Mashhoon for his $2.5 million rehabilitation of the Hanifin-San Pablo project, which included buildings dating back to 1901.The alliance is also pleased Mashhoon took on the 13th Street project.Alliance President Valery Garry said she was, “thrilled to see this skyscraper is being brought back to life.”She was especially impressed by the restoration of the original detail on the upper stories, including the arched windows on the 10th and 11th floors.Although the property has had more than one owner since the earthquake, none made any improvements on what Mashhoon now calls the “Mash Building” — derived from his business, Mash Petroleum Inc.Mashhoon completely gutted the building’s interior. Workers removed debris with wheelbarrows, entering the building from the outer scaffolding because the staircase and elevators had collapsed.Today, Italian marble covers the floors of the common areas of the more than 60,000-square-foot building. The 11 floors occupy 5,500 square feet apiece, and there is additional footage in the basement.Each unit of the Beaux Arts structure is outfitted with a kitchen, 20 phone lines and 20 computer lines, ready for new tenants to move in.”Generally the tenant has to bring in their own lines,” said Mashhoon’s real estate broker, Gary Bettencourt with LCB Associates.Mashhoon will charge tenants between the second floor and the penthouse from $1.25 to $1.65 per square foot, not including utilities and janitorial services. Comparable offices in the neighborhood charge between $1.85 and $3 per square foot, Bettencourt said.Mashhoon said he will raise the rates to be more in line with the competition after the building receives its first tenant. No tenants or buyers have made offers yet, Bettencourt said. However, Mashhoon said they were in negotiations with Starbucks and T-Mobile for the ground floor retail space.The building’s grand opening is scheduled for Feb. 22. Mashhoon’s previous success with the Hanifin Block project helped him secure funding from the city for the 13th Street project.”Mo said he was really interested in acquiring another building and wanted me to show him some properties,” said Brian Kendall, project manager with the city’s Downtown Redevelopment Agency. “I told him to buy this building because even though it’s been neglected, it’s a fantastic property with fantastic potential.” The Oakland Cultural Heritage Survey said the 13th Street property was Oakland’s first skyscraper and first steel-frame structure. During the 1970s, many of its tenants were nonprofits and federal offices supporting the government’s anti-poverty programs, according to Annalee Allen, an Oakland historian, Tribune columnist and city tour guide.”At that time it was referred to as the Unity Building,” she said.