Seminary Point shopping center brings jobs, retail to East Oakland

After a nearly 12-year effort, city councilmembers, neighbors and various stakeholders gathered at East Oakland's Seminary Point yesterday to welcome the addition of a new 27,000-square-foot commercial retail plaza.

Billed as the city's newest retail center and anchored by a 14,250-square-foot Wallgreens, the new center fills a gap for neighbors who previously had to venture outside the area for goods and services.

"We're talking about a historically neglected neighborhood in which residents don't have places to get aspirin, children's diapers or pharmacy services," Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan told the Chronicle in 2015. "You have people who don't have cars who have to travel far to get to the nearest pharmacy."

Councilmember Desley Brooks spoke at yesterday's ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The development, located on the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Seminary Avenue, is the first project to be built in the area in nearly 30 years, according to the SF Business Times.

Six of the eight retail spaces are still up for grabs, according to the Economic and Workforce Development Department. It's A Grind Coffee House and Metro PCS have already signed leases and are currently building out their respective spaces.

The remaining six spots will "bring a complementary mix of retailers when fully leased," according to the Department. Subway sandwich chain is also said to be looking at one vacancy.

Site location, April 2017. | Photo: Google

The project is comprised of eleven separate parcels, which took several years to acquire. City officials collaborated with neighbors and area businesses to establish a desired mix of use and retail establishments.

"These types of tenants we can attract here are not what we can attract, let's say, in downtown Oakland or downtown San Francisco or Walnut Creek," said city program manager Larry Gallegos, noting difficulties to revitalize the neighborhood in recent years.

"You still have the same type of construction costs as we do here, but over there they can at least attract higher on the actual leases."

After requesting proposals for the site, the city chose Sunfield Development LLC to develop the commercial center through a 66-year ground lease in order to retain ownership of the land.

Sunfied Development CEO Sid Afshar said that 125 construction jobs and 54 permanent positions will be created due to the project, along with "millions in property and sales tax revenue for Oakland."

Oakland spent nearly $5 million on land assembly, demolition, hazardous materials removal and soil remediation, according to the Department. Additionally, the city provided a $2 million loan and $1.5 million line of credit with former redevelopment agency bond funds.

"It's hard to say whether it's a renters' market," said Gallegos, since East Oakland "hasn't seen too much retail activity in years."