15 June 2006

OUSD site finds a developer

Oakland Unified School District is on its way back to being on its own feet, with labor issues put to bed and money that will come in from the sale of OUSD's 8.25-acre mini-campus near Lake Merritt. According to new reports, a partnership of East Coast firms Terramark and Urban America have put together the winning bid on the property. They intend to build a mixed-use development containing 1,000 housing units and commercial space. The district needs to pay off an emergency $100 million loan the state lent a few years ago, so it's likely much of the sale price will go towards that debt. The price of the land is expected to be between $55 million and $70 million.

OUSD had originally intended to share the space with the eventual developer, but it now appears that will not be the case. At the bottom of the district's memo (first link above) is a mention of moving into or building new facilities somewhere, including downtown Oakland. Unclear is the fate of the five (mostly small) schools residing on the campus, though the memo states that La Escuelita Elementary will be kept in the area.

Long-time readers may remember that over a year ago, I declared the OUSD site unsuitable for a ballpark due to its size and unusual "J" shape. So it's not as if there were some major opportunity to build a stadium on the OUSD site. The link is more tangential - it's less one prime site on which a decent-sized "village" concept could be built, even if it weren't co-located with a ballpark And if you're looking to get something like that done in Oakland, you'll need to assemble some decent, easy-to-acquire land to make it happen.

One other thing - thanks to those who have been responding with the latest news on the Oakland mayoral race. It looks like the final tally won't be out until the end of the week, and so far everything points to a runoff in November. That could reduce a key advantage Oakland would've had even though Dellums couldn't take office until January. Now he'll have to throw considerable resources into a fall campaign instead of lining up a transition staff well in advance. However, we should still remember that as important as this political jostling is, it doesn't supplant the two most important factors: Is there a good site? and Who pays for it? Everything else, including transportation concerns, pales next to those questions.