14 August 2007

Tumbleweeds at JLS

East Bay Express writers Robert Gammon and John Birdsall have put together a nice exposé on the not-so-goings-on at Jack London Square. Gammon, as you may recall, co-wrote a well-constructed recent history of the A's in Oakland and their southerly overtures.

Developers Jim Falaschi and Hal Ellis Jr. bought the property for a song in 2001, thanks to connections with bossman Don Perata. They pitched a retail and residential concept around the Slow Food movement, with a fancy farmers market and organic food restaurants that would purportedly put the development at the SF Ferry Terminal to shame. Six years later, previous tenant restaurants have been driven out amid rising rents and concerns about gentrification. The Harvest Hall remains unbuilt. Worst of all, the developers are moving to create office space within JLS, a use completely at odds with the original project intent.

Jack London Square was not originally considered a candidate site for a future Oakland ballpark, instead the
nearby Howard Terminal was. Not that JLS alone is big enough (other surrounding parcels would've been required), but it would've been interesting to see what would've happened if JLS was a candidate site. It's hard to find too much fault with the JLS developers given the volatility of the real estate market, especially in Oakland. Still, there's a sense of major miscalculation at very least, if not complete misdirection on their part.