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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Developer Shops the Sherwin Williams Residential Housing Project Around Town

Emeryville's Last Chance to Get it Right

As the developer for the Sherwin Williams site at Horton and Sherwin Street, Oakland's SRM Ernst Development Partners, goes through the paces to get their mostly residential project approved, a track well worn by many other developers in recent years, Emeryville residents would do well this time to get more involved in the process.  We say this because by adding perhaps 1000 new residents to our small city, not only will this project be extremely consequential as to the long term livability of Emeryville, so too this site promises to be the last large development for at least a generation to come, what with all our new residential techie loft buildings sprung up chock-a-block over the last 15 years.  Such are the consequences of a former manufacturing hub filled with rusting factories and warehouses seizing a rare opportunity and rapidly remaking an entire city as Emeryville has done (for better or worse).
With a finite amount of land available, Emeryville's frenzied transformation into a land 'o lofts and a warren of anonymous shopping malls was bound to come to an end.  We're now at that end.  We're just about all developed up.

Well, maybe not the Earth...
but certainly a huge chunk
of Emeryville.
The transformation hasn't been without negative consequences, not the least of which is the stultifying domain one gets when one frantically caters to so specific a demographic as Emeryville has: the 30-40 year old techie commuting to San Francisco.  This housing type, preferred by developers, has produced hundreds of copies of the Emeryville magnum opus: the loft condo (even though that word loft is beginning to get a little long in the tooth).   Today's particular market has put a slight twist on the formula.  Now it's going to be all rental all the time.  And that's what it's going to be at Sherwin Williams the developer tells us.  Anything else won't pencil out you understand.

But the developer hasn't been focusing on the residential part of the project at the community meetings even though its almost all residential.  Instead the development team has been mixing it up at these meetings, bringing an air of excitement..... there's going to be retail too..... and they want our input.  They want what we want they're telling us.  We're supposed to dream big about what kind of locally serving retail shops we want.  The problem, of course, is we've already seen this doesn't end well for us.  We've seen too many developers simply mollify potential neighbor critics to their projects with retail fantasy wish lists only to have them not materialize after the project gets built.  Care for a mattress chain store instead?  But the Sherwin Williams developer team seems so nice in their presentations.  Maybe this time it'll be different.

The site being last large piece of fallow land left in Emeryville, SRM Ernst admits the Sherwin Williams project will hugely impact our town.  In fact, they're downright giddy about it: they're building us a "town center" (towne centre perhaps?) they tell us.  That's funny because we already have two town centers; the East Bay Bridge Mall and the Bay Street Mall.  Both those respective developers (Catellus Development and Madison Marquette Development) said the same thing; their project would be Emeryville's "town center".  Maybe Emeryville will be henceforth known as the town with three developer built towne centres all competing with each other leaving no center at all.

Fill in "More Cars" and you won't be disappointed


  1. The whole project seems ill conceived for that parcel. There doesn't appear to be any demand for retail or office in that location, and 80 Units/acre is just too dense.

    Our Officials and Planners don't care. Just bring us the project. But, if you are an investor with the Developers, you better keep an eye on your wallet. It will vanish.

    Good Luck !

  2. You write, "so too this site promises to be the last large development for at least a generation to come..." I thought the Gen Plan envisions major mid-hi-rise commercial center at powell and christie--knocking out Dennys and a new TJs and tower parking? Not true? Please detail in Tattler.

    1. This is a pie-in-the-sky development proposal that was introduced by favored developer TMG Development and then folded into our General Plan as a way to accomadate the developer. The idea is to grant many existing buildings in that area (with thriving businesses) to TMG by eninent domain and tear them down to build their project you mentioned. This formula has been used many times before by the City Council, notably Wareham Development. TMG however got cold feet and backed out of the deal but the PUD project site you mention is still in our Gen Plan