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WHAT SETS US APART FROM OTHER REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES
Oakland has turned entertainment into a growing piece of its economy.
The city is becoming an increasingly happening entertainment center, replete with live music venues, hip restaurants, lively bars and clubs, and maybe soon a bowling alley. The city is working with developer Sid Afshar and others to brand the Uptown neighborhood around the refurbished Fox Theater as Oakland’s arts and entertainment district.
While most of the current entertainment options revolve around food and drink, current development plans call for more diverse kinds of entertainment. The largest of those ideas that is actually on its way. With the explosion of fine dining in Uptown, “I realized there was a certain clientele in Oakland that loved to be able to wine and dine in a quality place,” Afshar said. “An entertainment anchor would encourage people to stay here and not go anywhere (else).”
San Francisco Business Times
Entertainment industry fuels neighborhood life
Emphasis on both short and long term profits.
Primary investment in mixed-use multi-family and senior housing.
Use of options to entitle large parcels of land.
Should Sunfield’s plans materialize, Afshar has already secured letters of intent from Lucky Strike, a high-end bowling alley that would take the second floor, and from the San Jose Sharks who would open one of their Stanley’s bars.
(The San Jose Sharks also operate the nearby Ice Center.) Afshar hopes to lease the basement level to someone like Dave and Busters or ESPN Zone. The ground level space will go to bars, restaurants or even apparel retailers. Afshar ambitiously hopes he can start construction in fall 2011 and open in 2012, if he can get leases signed and construction loans. The entire project will cost $50 million, with $30 million of that going to hard costs. Afshar’s proposal calculated that his project will create around 600 permanent jobs.
The Fox Theater, which attracts top acts and routinely sells out the 100-odd shows it puts on annually, has been a true catalyst for changing the neighborhood. The current development in Oakland can be traced back to Jerry Brown’s days as mayor. His pro-business stance and his decision to attract 10,000 new residents to downtown Oakland are now paying dividends. While the city has not directly subsidized these new entertainment venues, it has made it easier to get business licenses and to change zoning requirements, like allowing restaurants to add outdoor seating, where necessary.
“What is missing, the next frontier, is a comprehensive zoning and permitting program to make it even easier to get arts and entertainment venues established,” said Samee Lynn Roberts, manager of the cultural arts and marketing for Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency. Then the city could take that program on the road to pitch new entertainment businesses to open in Oakland. Barely a dream a decade ago, Uptown is now something of an arts and entertainment hub for Oakland. More change and density is on the way. Two prime corners in the Uptown district remain undeveloped. One is owned by Forest City and will include housing of some sort. The other is the old Sears building, which is for sale. Both of these could include entertainment venues. As it is, the city has become a regional hub for the arts and for rising artists.
“We wanted to nurture the creative industry here in Oakland, have it be the job and revenue producer, and also bring enrichment to residents and visitors alike,” Roberts said. She said that artists started moving into Oakland, which in the past decade has gone from having a handful of art galleries to 50 galleries citywide that now host the wildly popular Art Murmur on the first Friday of each month. “All of this is happening against the backdrop of the worst economic downfall this country has seen in recent history,” Roberts said. “Somehow things are moving in Oakland in this particular segment. Arts and entertainment has been a growth industry for us.” Whether this budding arts and entertainment district will reach full flower depends mightily on Oakland’s new mayor, Jean Quan.
Outgoing Mayor Ron Dellums appointed five new cultural affairs commissioners, who govern the city’s arts grants. All those new commissioners come from the entertainment side rather than the nonprofit arts side that has long dominated the commission. Roberts of the City of Oakland said that the city has beefed up staffing in the special permits office to make it easier to put on a live music show or cabaret, for instance, and she hopes it soon details a comprehensive vision and policy for the entertainment district. “There is a clientele in Oakland for a place like this,” Afshar said. “The whole place is bursting at the seams, and there’s an underlying current of entertainment. It’s like Oakland has always been yearning for something like that — and people have always had to go somewhere else.”
Read more: Entertainment industry fuels neighborhood life | San Francisco Business Times For more information, visit www.sunfielddevelopment.com.