Two 20-story towers for Jack London Square

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Ellis Partners LLC is revamping its plans to transform Jack London Square with a proposal to build up to 665 housing units.

The developer submitted an application to the City of Oakland to amend a previous development plan. The new plan calls for two housing towers of more than 20 stories on sites currently entitled for office and retail development.

The sites involved are:

  • A parcel at the corner of Broadway and Embarcadero currently used for surface parking that is across from the former Barnes & Noble store. It was approved for 120,000 square feet of office and retail space.
  • A parcel on Embarcadero between Harrison and Alice streets entitled for 135,000 square feet of office. The site is next to the Jack London Market building, which has housing and retail space, and the site of a proposed, 248-room hotel.

Rachel Flynn, Oakland’s planning director, said the city is supportive of allowing the developer to building housing instead of commercial space as long as it activates the area and become landmarks for the neighborhood.

“If they’re not going to have retail, then we want the buildings to be open and have lighting,” she said.

Ellis Partners completed the first phase of its projected, $350 million redevelopment of Jack London Square in 2008. Much of the first phase’s office components leased up to tenants including Sungevity, which moved it’s headquarters to the Jack London Market Building.

The retail part, however, has struggled with the retail component of the market building, about 70,000 square feet, vacant other than Daniel Paterson’s Haven Restaurant and other large retail spaces such as the former Barnes & Noble store empty as well.

The market building was slated to house a multi-level food court and market similar to San Francisco’s Ferry Building or Pike Place Market in Seattle. Last year, Jim Ellis, managing partner for Ellis Partners, said the developer would shift the focus of the market to gourmet food producers who wanted production and retail space. Neither plan materialized.

Meanwhile, housing development is on the upswing in Oakland after laying dormant for close to five years. For the first time in years, developers are proposing hundreds of new units and reviving approved projects.

Several new housing developments have been built in recent years in Jack London Square such as Embarcadero Pacific’s the Bond, Emerald Funds’ the Ellington and Signature Development Group’s 288 Third, giving the area a boost in residents and pedestrian traffic.

Adding more housing to the mix could help entice more retailers, such as a full-service grocery store, to set up shop

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