2 plans considered for Oakland Army base

July 7, 2009 7:06:27 PM PDT
Over the past decade, plans for a former Army base in Oakland have included everything from a casino to a Hollywood movie studio. Now, there are two new proposals in the works and both of them hold a great promise.

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It's been 10 years since the Army closed its base in Oakland and the prime piece of Bay Area real estate has become a virtual ghost town.

"Before, it was a community," said Shirley Burnell, a former base employee.

Burnell worked as a keypunch operator on the base. Her former office building is now as obsolete as her long-gone job.

"Trucks, trucks, all you see is trucks. A lot of the buildings we were in are empty," said Burnell.

However, the city has plans to change that. Later this month the council will decide between two strikingly different proposals for the future of the base; each has a promise of thousands of jobs and millions in revenue.

One would turn the land into a retail hub, with big box stores like Target, a hotel, office space and a movie theater.

The other would expand the shipping and trucking industry already in place at the neighboring Port of Oakland with space for high tech and green tech offices, and a film production studio.

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums likes the idea.

"The mayor believes that the City of Oakland is a port city in and of itself and so the port expansion has always been an important part of the city's economy," said Mayor Dellums' chief of staff David Chai.

Either way city officials say one of the two proposals will become a reality this time around. Other plans have come and gone.

Hollywood's Wayan brothers considered building a movie studio and theme park. There has been talk of everything from an auto row, to a casino, and a baseball park.

Community groups say no matter what gets built, the priority should be jobs for Oakland.

"We are looking at how can the Army base, in bringing up to 8,000 jobs be an opportunity to really jumpstart the economy and put Oaklanders back to work," said Kate O'Hara with the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy.

After all this time, residents like Burnell just want something in place.

"I don't care what the jobs are, as long as they're paying a good, good salary where people can actually live off it," said Burnell.

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