The architectural firm HKS has some wins to crow about. The Dallas-based company designed Lucas Oil Stadium and Cowboys Stadium, hosts for the last two Super Bowls. Now they’re backing two Hail Mary attempts for the Bay Area NFL teams. A month ago an SFGate report had San Francisco planning commissioner Mike Antonini working with HKS and an unnamed investment company on a last ditch attempt to convince Jed York to keep the team in San Francisco. Today, Matier and Ross report that HKS has signed on to put together the Coliseum City plan with the hopes of keeping one or all of Oakland’s franchises in place.
To get the project going, Oakland is getting ready to authorize $3 million for a series of studies that will have to done on the entire Coliseum area, not just the complex. I wrote about this in detail last December. HKS won the winning bid, in conjunction with Oakland-based JRDV and Forest City, to master plan 750 acres of land on both sides the Nimitz. The project is split into two areas: Area 1 (Coliseum complex, BART, and surroundings) and Area 2 (nearly everything west of 880 to the airport). Knowing how much money goes into these types of studies, they’ll need every penny of that $3 million to complete the work.
Based on the previous work these firms have done, I figure the responsibilities will be divided along these lines:
- HKS – Design for the iconic stadium(s) and hotel
- JRDV – Master planning and integration
- Forest City Enterprises – Actual development
All of these pieces are important. HKS will work on the anchors for the project, and they have potential access to investment groups should things move along. So does Forest City, but their aims are lower since they’re focusing on ancillary commercial spaces that will have to be sold and/or leased to other tenants. JRDV provides the framework and the glue. Their responsibility is to make it work with Coliseum BART, figure out how to backfill parking that will be lost to construction, and make the whole thing look attractive. Their local portfolio is extensive, including plans for Uptown around the Fox Theater and San Jose’s San Pedro Square Market. Nothing JRDV has done in the US is as large as what’s being proposed for the Coliseum area, making this new project a special challenge.
As I wrote two months ago, this process is expected to be deliberate. Anyone expecting a new Coliseum complex to rise like it was being built in Shanghai is due for disappointment. The RFP lays out the time commitments the winning bidder will have to make to get through the entirety of the project:
- 25 project meetings with city staff
- 8 community workshops
- 12 public meetings with the Planning Commission and City Council
The Coliseum area has an advantage in that it shouldn’t need a new EIR for a replacement or refurbished arena or a replacement football/baseball stadium since those uses are already in place. New EIRs will be needed for any other new construction. That would include:
- A third sports venue, such as a baseball stadium alongside a football stadium
- High-rise hotel
- Commercial development, including office towers or a mall
In addition, the entire plan will need its own EIR. It’s all about impact, and if you introduce new elements such as the visual impact of a high-rise hotel or additional commercial traffic not associated with Coliseum events, it all needs to be studied. Likewise, a third venue will have to be studied simply because of the possibility that events could be held in the arena, ballpark, and football stadium simultaneously. That’s a lot of people and a lot of cars. There will have to be plans to figure out where all of these people will park since much of currently undeveloped Coliseum complex land will be claimed for future development. Lastly, there will need to be alternatives to show what impacts would occur if some of these concepts don’t come to fruition.
This is how big things get built in California. There’s a very good chance that none of it will ever get built. Oakland and Alameda County will have to be in lockstep to make this happen, and their collective resources are extremely limited. It’s telling that Oakland is footing the bill for this but Alameda County is not. They’ll need more resources to execute this plan to any successful completion. If they aren’t get on the same page, it’ll be Oakland’s $3 million down the drain.