Square leases landmark building and is now poised to be the largest tech business in Oakland

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The tech industry is making big moves in the East Bay. In one of Oakland's biggest ever real estate deals, Square will be moving into Uptown Station, one of the city's most iconic buildings.

Square signed a lease Thursday, which will make the payments processing company the largest tech business in Oakland.

The building gives Square room for up to 2,000 employees. According to City Hall, Pandora, the next biggest tech company in Oakland, has 1,000 employees. All those people have to live somewhere, which has given rise to concern about how this real estate transaction will affect affordable housing in Oakland.

"I heard about the tech companies moving in," said Cotys Winston who has lived in Oakland for 30 years.

Winston used to shop at Uptown Station when it was a Sears department store and is wary of what tech will do to the neighborhood.

"Rent is going to go up higher than what it is right now and individuals aren't going to be able to live here anymore if we have tech companies, because it has a tendency of moving people out and moving them in."

Winston's fears aren't misplaced.

"The tech expansion in the Bay Area is one of the drivers for gentrification and displacement in the region," said Jeff Levin, who is the policy director for East Bay Housing Organizations, a nonprofit focused on protecting and expanding affordable housing.

"We're happy to see an expansion of employment opportunities and we hope that Oakland residents will get some of those jobs, but we're also concerned about how that will affect the housing market."

"I expect Square to not just invest in our real estate, we want Square to invest in our values and that means a diverse workforce, really opening up opportunities to people who have been left out of the entrepreneurial dream," said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who adds that Oakland is in the process of addressing the housing crunch and is optimistic that tech and current Oakland residents can co-exist.

"We have more than 8,700 units of housing under construction right now, so to the extent that new workers are moving into the Oakland, there are new housing units for them to move into, so they don't displace the people who are here right now."

In a statement from Square, CEO Jack Dorsey, who also founded Twitter, said, "We're excited to join the Oakland community as a partner, an advocate, a neighbor, and a customer of local businesses." The Square statement also said, "Square anticipates it will begin taking occupancy of Uptown Station in the fourth quarter of 2019 and plans to maintain a significant presence in San Francisco within its current office at 1455 Market Street."

Go here to read Square's full statement.
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