Holliday Development

There’s a movement afoot in the shadows of the late Cypress Structure

For over a century, Oakland’s 16th Street Station buzzed with activity. The city’s first Southern Pacific rail station, built in 1870 and replaced with an imposing Beaux Arts building in 1912, was a hub for local, regional and national rail travel until earthquake damage shut it down in 1989. Along the way it transported Pacific Coast League baseball teams to games at the nearby Oakland Baseball Grounds and provided jobs for members of the country’s first African-American labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

During its 119 years of operation, the neighborhood surrounding 16th Street Station changed. Th e 1957 construction of the Cypress Street Viaduct cut West Oakland off from the rest of the city, leading to a gradual deterioration of the area. When the double-decked freeway collapsed under the strain of the Loma Prieta Earthquake, on October 17, 1989, it merely confirmed what had already been decades of creeping blight. The damaged and shuttered train station was just one element in a perfect storm of decline.

Into this scenario walked Bay Area developer Rick Holliday. Using the former Pacific Cannery building (then being employed as a Post Office storage facility), the man behind loft conversions like San Francisco’s Clock Tower and Sacramento’s proposed Capitol Lofts created a large-scale loft, townhouse and condominium project that combines the existing Pacific Cannery warehouse with new construction. Pacific Cannery is one of several residential buildings either built or proposed in proximity of Central Station. When the dust finally settles, Holliday and others hope to have completely transformed a neighborhood. Their business in Oakland is rebirth.

This story really begins in 1989. When the earthquake hit and the viaduct fell, local leaders and West Oakland/Prescott-Oakland Point residents saw the opportunity for change. With the harsh border of the Cypress Structure gone, a revitalized neighborhood could emerge. Ten years later, when the Oakland Army Base closed, the opportunities increased.

At first, planners considered filling the land with big box stores and office space. Some considered selling the land to auto dealers, a solution that would have marginalized residents even further than they had already become. The alternative, a residential development called Central Station, is the largest private investment ever made in West Oakland. When it is complete, more than 1,000 new homes will cover 29 acres of land and the train station will re-emerge as a mixed-use showcase.

It is a giant opportunity, and with giant opportunity comes giant responsibility, something that, from Day One, Rick Holliday took seriously. Outreach began early. Holliday himself visited houses and barbershops to get a full sense of neighborhood wants and needs. He wanted to build new homes that locals could realistically afford, as well. The resulting project — Pacific Cannery Lofts — ranges in price from $219,000 to $450,000. So far, with approximately 100 of the development’s 163 units sold, 80% of purchasers have been first-time homebuyers.

For their money these buyers get homes that have already garnered a number of awards. In 2010, the David Baker & Partners-designed project won a Golden Nugget award for Best Adaptive Reuse and the James Hardy Design Award, which focuses on how design serves its end user. In all, two-building Pacific Cannery has 99 lofts (arranged around multiple protected courtyards in the original cannery building) 49 flats and 15 townhouses in the adjacent new building.

Lofts are zoned for live-work use. And these are no cookie-cutter lofts. Each incorporates original details and has a unique floorplan. Developmentwide perks include a “Velo Lounge,” where residents can store and maintain bicycles — one of the many details intended to help create community among Cannery owners. Long on style and innovation, the unique Pacific Cannery Lofts are part of a major identity shift for West Oakland’s Prescott-Oakland Point neighborhood.

Visionary developers are joining community leaders to revitalize an urban neighborhood with a long andstoried past.

"When the dust finally settles, Holliday and others hope to have completely transformed a neighborhood. Their business in Oakland is rebirth."