Brooklyn Basin Ushers in New Era for Oakland Waterfront

Signature Development Group and Zarsion America have held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the start of construction on Brooklyn Basin in Oakland, Calif.
Image credit: Humphreys Architects

Image credit: Humphreys Architects

By Jeffrey Steele, Contributing Writer

Oakland, Calif.—Signature Development Group and Zarsion America have held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the start of construction on Brooklyn Basin in Oakland, Calif. Brooklyn Basin is a new waterfront community being built on the Oakland Estuary south of Jack London Square.

The $1.5 billion redevelopment of a neglected, 64-acre industrial area has been designed to create a vibrant new residential area. The community will blend apartments, condominiums, lofts and townhouses, and deliver more than 30 acres of new waterfront city parks and publicly accessible open space.

Brooklyn Basin will also include more than 200,000 square feet of retail space, renovation of the Clinton Basin and 5th Avenue Marinas, preservation of part of the historic Ninth Avenue Terminal and ambitious wetlands restoration.

The project was begun more than 12 years ago, when the Port of Oakland began soliciting developer proposals. “The Signature was chosen,” Paul Nieto, Signature Development Group executive vice president, tells MHN. “The project was entitled in 2006 after an exhaustive process of community and government planning sessions and a thorough Environmental Impact Report (EIR). As often happens in California, the EIR was challenged in court. It took five years for us to prevail in the court case and the subsequent appeals. During that period of time, the Great Recession hit.”

When the project emerged from the litigation, the capital markets for real estate development were frozen due to the recession. Signature continued to pursue financing, and partnered with Beijing Zarsion Holdings to purchase the property in 2013. Headquartered in Beijing, Zarsion Holdings annually builds about 10 million square feet of residential, retail and office projects in China.

“This is the largest investment by a private Chinese company in U.S. real estate to date,” Nieto says.

Brooklyn Basin is entitled for 3,100 multifamily units, he reports. “We expect that the first buildings will break ground in early 2015, with the first residents moving in during the second half of 2016,” he says. “We are building the first phase of infrastructure and roadway improvements in 2014.”

The redevelopment is expected to mean a great deal to Oakland, Nieto says. Brooklyn Basin will link a previously isolated maritime-industrial area to Jack London Square and Downtown Oakland. Given its acres of waterfront parks and the addition of 1.4 miles to the regional Bay Trail network, Brooklyn Basin should provide the community with many recreational and entertainment opportunities.

“The combination of new residences, retail, entertainment and dining venues will provide residents and visitors the chance to reconnect with the historic waterfront,” Nieto concludes.

Michael Ghielmetti, president of Signature Development Group, adds that Brooklyn Basin “is the culmination of years of planning and community input, and will revitalize this part of Oakland’s historic waterfront.”