One of Contra Costa County’s tallest office towers could land at Pleasant Hill BART

Harvest and AvalonBay are in talks to finish the Contra Costa Centre Transit Village.

After over 15 years, the Contra Costa Transit Center could be poised for completion.

Harvest Properties Inc. is in talks with AvalonBay Communities Inc. and local officials to develop the 2.2-acre site on the western side of the Pleasant Hill station, according to sources familiar with the discussions. The land is approved for 290,000 square feet — or 12 stories — of office space.

Arlington, VA-based AvalonBay has a ground lease on the site, called Block D, and the adjacent site to the east of the BART station, where it recently broke ground on 200 apartments. Both properties are in an unincorporated part of Contra Costa County near Walnut Creek.

If selected, Harvest would be assigned the development rights for the remaining parcel, which could become the largest new office development in the area since Harvest and Equity Office’s 255,00-square-foot, six-story property at 3055 Oak Road was completed in Walnut Creek in 2009. Harvest is headquartered in Emeryville.

Maureen Toms, deputy director of Contra Costa’s Department of Conservation and Development, is working with the Pleasant Hill BART Leasing Authority, the group of local officials negotiating for Block D. She confirmed that the authority is in talks with one of three developers that submitted proposals, but declined to confirm Harvest’s involvement. Harvest also declined to comment.

“The end goal is to finish what was proposed back in 2001 and complete the vision,” Toms said.

 

 

Read more on San Francisco Business Time

 

 

 

Seeing Pros and Cons in “Digitization” of Real Estate

A future-focused Urban Leaders Summit discussion in Frankfurt in May on embracing new technology raised just as many questions as it answered.

Many German business leaders have been fretting about what they call Industry 4.0—the sweeping changes created by machine learning, automation, the “internet of things,” and big data—innovations they categorize under the umbrella of “digitization.” The waves of change triggered by this digital shift are going to be felt for generations to come, as more and more jobs are capable of being done by machines. Will we need humans at all? Will we create a superintelligence that finds us an unnecessary burden?

But going back to the present, Sascha Friesike, professor of digital innovation at VU Universität Amsterdam, wondered why urbanization continues to grow even as we increasingly decentralize work. If jobs can be done from anywhere, why do we still largely choose to move to cities?

Klaus Dederichs of Drees & Sommer was wary about the rush to incorporate the internet of things into properties. Tests have shown that the current generation of smart devices, which usually operate over wi-fi, is easy to hack. “They are compromising buildings’ cybersecurity,” he said. “What if terrorists attack smart buildings rather than drive into crowds?”

But Dederichs did also note some potential for buildings to get smarter, optimizing energy use being one of them. Building information modeling (BIM) is another promising field in the world of smart buildings. This digitizing of the planning, construction, and maintenance of buildings increases efficiency and extends the life of a project. Thus far, BIM has not seen huge adoption rates in Germany; the industry is hesitant largely because of the financial investments and the additional training needed for workers.

Blockchain came up in practically every discussion, as did artificial intelligence. It is difficult to find the middle ground between viral anxiety and tech evangelism, said Thomas Metzinger of the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz. “What do we do when a smart city crashes? And it will crash. We need graceful degradation,” referring a web design term that refers to designing a project to continue to function even if some features fail.

“We aren’t going to build houses that aren’t future-proof anymore,” said Martin Rodeck of EDGE Technologies, owned by OVG Real Estate. You cannot risk a new building being outdated within five years. And you should not jump on a trend like blockchain or virtual reality just because everyone else is doing it—you need to focus on how to solve the problem at hand.

Read more on Urban Land Institute

 

Young couples and retirees ditch the city for a new kind of suburb

The term “surban” describes a suburban community that offers the conveniences of urban life.

John Burns Real Estate Consulting trademarked the word in 2016. Urban planners have long described a marriage of residential and commercial as “mixed-use” communities. This surban concept, while not novel, has been gaining popularity over the past few years.

Chris Porter, chief demographer at John Burns, said it’s a no-brainer option for many Americans, especially younger couples without kids and empty nesters. Surban communities are often near transit hubs and also have amenities like boutique fitness options, high-quality grocery stores and popular restaurants.

“It’s about lifestyle. There’s this idea that urban environments traditionally don’t have great public schools and the suburban environments do. That’s why you actually see a lot of families, once they start to have kids, moving to the suburbs for school quality. You’ve got lower crime in suburban areas than you would have in urban areas. In urban areas you have walkability and public transportation… bringing some of those things to the suburbs in small downtown areas is really the concept that we see — the concept of surban,” he said in a new podcast.

Projects like Irvine Spectrum, a mega outdoor shopping mall with a residential village adjacent to it, and San Jose’s Santana Row, which brands itself as a “small town feel inside the big city,” are cropping up across California.

City Place in Edgewater, New Jersey, which has luxury apartments sitting above stores like Anthropologie, is right next to a multiplex cinema. Developers are even investing in teacher’s villages that offer the best of both urban and suburban worlds.

Read more on Yahoo Finance

 

 

San Francisco delays decision on retail-to-office conversions

The owners of 220 Post St. spent $75 million to buy the Union Square property in 2016. The goal: to attract a luxury tenant to the five-story building. Too bad few of those exist.

City Center Realty Partners shelled out nearly $75 million for Union Square’s 220 Post St., the former Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s Store, with the goal of attracting a luxury tenant to the five-story space. That goal has been more difficult than expected.

Nearly as difficult for the owners has been convincing city planners that retailers are no longer interested in space above the ground floor.

Seven proposals to convert upper-level retail into office space have been filed with the San Francisco Planning Department, including 220 Post’s. Most of those properties are in Union Square. Earlier this year, the city decided to freeze those applications for 18 months. That meant that 220 Post, which was supposed to be heard by the planning commission this month, is waiting indefinitely for a decision pending the creation of permanent rules.

What’s at stake is the future of the city’s retail heart. City officials are hesitant to give up the sales tax revenue and jobs that retail generates, but landlords say empty space accomplishes nothing. Instead, landlords argue that adding more office space would not only help them fill buildings, but alleviate the extreme shortage of office space that is sending small businesses and nonprofits to Oakland.

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution by District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin in May that imposed temporary rules banning conversions for an 18-month period. Planning Department spokesperson Gina Simi said the department has postponed hearings for properties located within the city’s downtown retail area.

The controls don’t apply to properties located south of Market Street or for applications that have already been approved, such as the former Macy’s Men’s store.

 

 

Read more on San Francisco Business Times

 

 

Mall tenants had an out when giants like Macy’s left. Now landlords bar the door

The only thing more dangerous for America’s malls than a string of apparel-chain bankruptcies is when the trouble hits department stores.

Retailers like J.C. Penney Co. and Macy’s Inc. are considered “anchors” that keep malls humming and foot traffic flowing. They’re so important to the ecosystem that smaller tenants may refuse to set up shop without a promise that the anchors will stick around: Many leases include so-called co-tenancy clauses that let them cut and run or pay less if those key tenants depart.

Now, many landlords are pushing to eliminate or narrow the escape clauses in the wake of mass department-store closings. That means less flexibility for the remaining tenants.

 

Read more on Bloomberg

 

 

Oakland housing developers turn to new ways of building to reduce costs

Rising construction costs are pushing Oakland developers to rethink traditional construction methods to make sure much-needed housing continues to get built.

“It is an issue right now that we are all facing increased construction costs,” UrbanCore Development CEO Michael Johnson said during Bisnow’s recent Oakland Construction & Development Update event. “What will happen is some projects will not move forward as a result of that.”

Double-digit increases in the cost of new construction projects are not driven solely by increases in material costs, but also by higher profit margins and greater labor costs as contractors struggle to find a qualified workforce, he said.

Several developers have turned toward using modular units, designing more efficient floor plans and creating new building technologies.

OWow is developing a type of unit that can adjust the number of bedrooms with a push of a button. Mechanized, acoustically rated walls would raise and lower to create up to four bedrooms, oWow founder Danny Haber said. His company has been building macro-units in Oakland that use efficient design to cut down on construction costs.

Other developers have been pursuing modular construction. UrbanCore Development decided to go modular on its Coliseum Connections project about five years ago, Johnson said. Conventional construction was more expensive, and an analysis estimated about a 10% cost savings on a $40M construction budget, he said.

The modular units are expected to be fully in place by Friday and the 110-unit mixed-income housing project is expected to be completed in January.

 

Read more on Bisnow

 

 

 

Free time and fun: the new must-haves at apartments

As the luxury multifamily market approaches a peak, apartment owners and managers turning to social amenities to engage residents at their properties.

The new must-have amenity for luxury apartment projects? Time.

During this economic growth cycle apartment developers have engaged in a virtual arms race of amenities. Most were physical goodies they could tout in property tours – features like furnished guest suites for resident’s out-of-town visitors, rooftop pools, and walk-in lobby refrigerators for food deliveries.

Now, say apartment developers and property managers, the trend is towards providing services that save residents time, or experiences that make effective use of it.

Across the country high-end apartments are now offering a host of new services to attract renters: dog-walking, wine tastings, poker nights, errand-runners.

“There’s this feeling that the amenities war has run its course – everyone has the same check list on their website,” said Tom Geyer, vice president of branding at the Bozzuto Group, the Greenbelt, MD.-based developer and apartment manager.

“But I do think the battle of services is a newfound strategy to build value.”

Bozzuto, which owns or manages more than 60,000 units up and down the East Coast, has become a specialist in adding these experience-based and time-saving services, and notes the appeal of service and experience-based amenities goes across all age groups.

For its part, Geyer said Bozzuto doesn’t try to mold their properties to fit a certain age group – for millennials, say.

Rather, the company sees its properties and tenants in terms of “tribes.” Some properties have a preponderance of bike riders, some have dog owners, and others are dominated by retirees looking for urban living experiences.

“Most of our residents are not non-social people,” said Geyer. “Building amenity space is about supporting interaction, looking for a chance meeting of the tribe.”

For example, Geyer said residents aren’t just interested in an onsite gym, they want access to classes.

“Classes are the number one thing, group classes,” he said.

That means not just adding amenities, but re-designing some of the existing amenity spaces. Gyms have to be designed to accommodate the new trends of cross-fit, PX-90 workouts. And equipment has to be placed to accommodate classes.

National Development, a multifamily developer and manager based in Boston, agrees with the new thinking. It hired a full-time marketing and community engagement manager who coordinates events for a dozen National Development properties.

“It’s not an either-or proposition,” said Ted Tye, a managing partner at National Development. “There’s been a real push for physical amenities, and that hasn’t abated. Layered on top of that, as the market gets more competitive, is the social amenity.”

 

 

Read more on CoStar

 

 

 

Exclusive: Huge cannabis business campus headed to Oakland

Will this business park near Oakland’s Oracle Arena be California’s next big hub of cannabis innovation?

A sleepy Oakland business park a stone’s throw from Oracle Arena may be transformed into the Bay Area’s next big cannabis business campus.

Mesh Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on investing in cannabis startups, hopes to turn an office complex on Edgewater Drive into a center of the region’s cannabis manufacturing, marketing and production.

“It’s going to look very much like a tech campus,” said Mesh Ventures Partner Parker Berling.

The complex is master leased to Mesh Ventures Partner Martin Kaufman who is making around $20 million in infrastructure and tenant improvements.

California Capital and Investment Group bought the 207,700-square-foot office property in 2013 for $7.8 million, but has struggled to fill it. Kaufman said the Mesh Ventures team saw the opportunity of creating a campus in an area with access to top-tier scientific and technological talent.

“Sure, we could have done this in Fresno or Humboldt and t would have been cheaper but the level of people that we have here are unmatched anywhere else,” Kaufman said. “We have academics, scientists, really trained qualified people who are located here and are looking to enter the industry as it turns from a black market to a white market.”

Kaufman is the co-founder of dispensary Blum Oakland, which was sold in 2016 to Irvine-based cannabis agriculture company Terra Tech.

The center is being built out with the particular security and regulatory concerns of the cannabis industry in mind. Berline said roughly three-fourths of the tenants will be cannabis companies, mainly from the firm’s investment portfolio. Tenants are starting to move into the campus – which already has a functioning grow operation – and the renovations are expected to be completed by the end of the year. Leasing rates are rates around $2 per square foot.

 

 

Read more on San Francisco Business Times

 

 

Cupertino’s ‘Apple employee tax’ put off for one year

Cupertino elected officials have scrapped a controversial plan — for now — to impose an employee tax on Apple and other businesses in the city, saying they don’t want to move forward in haste and will instead ask voters to weigh in during a special election in 2019.

Though the city council intended only to discuss the plan Tuesday night, after impassioned public comment during which several people spoke out against the proposal as either too vague or unfair to businesses, the council voted 3-1 to put off placing a measure on the November 2018 ballot. Vice Mayor Rod Sinks recused himself because his wife is an Apple employee.

Councilman Barry Chang dissented, saying that waiting even another year would prolong the city’s transportation problems. While the council had not yet come up with specific plans to use revenue generated by the so-called head tax, it had broadly earmarked transit and housing improvements.

“I think not only here, the big corporations in the entire nation, the corporations need to take up their fair share to help solve the problems we are facing now,” Chang said. “So that’s why this issue needs to be done and needs to be done now instead of waiting.”

Chang said he proposed a more ambitious plan two years ago — which would have charged businesses $1,000 per employee — but that that proposal was shot down by other council members.

“Two years ago, no council member supported it, so nothing happened,” he said. “Two years passed. If we don’t do anything this time now, another two years will pass, nothing will happen, I guarantee you.”

While Councilman Steven Scharf appeared to be in agreement with Chang about the urgency of addressing the region’s transportation problems, he explained, “We can’t do this justice in two weeks.”

The council would have had to agree by July 3 on the details of the proposed tax in order to get it on the November ballot. Instead, the council now plans to discuss on July 3 whether it should propose a general or special tax on businesses to put before voters in 2019.

 

 

Read more on The Mercury News

 

 

Oakland’s growing pains could stifle future development

Dozens of cranes dot Oakland’s skyline and thousands of new housing units are in the works, making the current cycle one of the most robust in Oakland’s history.

As more people and businesses turn toward Oakland as a cheaper area to live and work, Oakland has struggled to keep up with both office and housing demand. Downtown Oakland is one of the tightest office markets in the country and multifamily rents have risen 51% since the start of the cycle.

Developers and designers are looking for ways to build more efficiently to keep rents down, but growing community activism, overworked city planning staff and tightening financing could stall future growth in Oakland.

Panelists discussed these topics as well as the impact of modular units and designing housing to meet residents’ changing needs during Bisnow’s Oakland Construction and Development Update event Thursday.

With 900 housing units delivering this year and 2,400 next year, the city is undergoing rapid change.

“Instead of the city [staff] focusing on department stores and auto dealerships, they’re making Oakland a very vibrant place to live,” Junction Properties owner Charles Long said during the event.

The increased development has spurred an anti-displacement movement and a backlash over a lack of affordable housing, which could shut down the future fulfillment of housing that Oakland has in its pipeline, he said.

Developers need to be more cognizant of working with the city and other stakeholders to better address the anti-displacement backlash, he said.

 

Read more on Bisnow