Earlier in the year, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan talked up foreign investment in Coliseum City, which had the potential to fill in funding gaps for one or more venues planned for the project. The Trib’s Matthew Artz reports tonight, on the eve of a Tuesday City Council closed session, that those investors are a partnership between real estate powerhouse Colony Capital and Dubai financier Rashid Al Malik. The closed session would presumably lead to a public discussion item on October 8, which should include some basic terms for the price of the land, a development timeline, and other critical information.
Colony/Al Malik are no strangers to bidding on expensive properties. In the spring they jumped to the lead in bidding for arena/stadium giant AEG. Eventually they balked as AEG honcho Phil Anschutz refused to budge from his asking price, purportedly up to $10 billion. That led to the departure of Farmers Field champion Tim Leiweke, leaving the football stadium project in limbo.
Coliseum City, which could cost $2 billion just for a replacement arena and separate baseball and football stadia, is expected to have billions more in development costs associated with offices, retail, and additional infrastructure. It has the potential to be the biggest single redevelopment project in California history.
The main problem is that redevelopment is yesterday’s plan. Tax increment is off limits thanks to Governor Brown’s dismantling of redevelopment agencies all over the state. While TIF couldn’t finance a lion’s share of the project, it could’ve helped take care of the infrastructure work, which no developer wants to take on if he can help it. The closed session talks are centered around land sales, so Oakland (and Alameda County) could conceivably sell Coliseum land or other nearby properties to help raise the public share. It’s not much of a departure from Lew Wolff’s Pacific Commons plan, which involved a fairly simple purchase option of privately owned, not publicly owned, land. While the Bay Area’s real estate market is experiencing a rebound, chances are that Oakland would name a price favorable for Colony/Al Malik in order to get them to play ball.
If you’re Colony/Al Malik, you want to be able to get in with as little equity or borrowing as possible. At the same time, we’re hearing that the project could work with only one or two venues as opposed to three. That works in Colony/Al Malik’s favor, since there would presumably be less money going towards stadia that would otherwise go to their shareholders. Not having to build a new ballpark or arena would also free up 10-15 acres of “prime” development land near the Raiders stadium. Of course, that has to be balanced with the recognition that more venues equals more events and event days, which would make the project more attractive to prospective tenants. There’s the possibility that no teams remain, which would result in no new venues. There’s also a remaining disconnect regarding the different players’ respective visions. Raiders owner Mark Davis continues to focus on a smallish outdoor stadium with less than 60,000 seats. Planning consultant JRDV (and previously Mayor Quan) want something larger – and perhaps retractably domed – that could attract big events such as the Super Bowl.
There’s one other angle to play here. In 2010, Colony bought the construction firm Tutor-Saliba, the contractor responsible for rebuilding the Coliseum Arena, Mt. Davis (no, they weren’t the architects), and several transit projects including the planned California High Speed Rail and the BART-to-SFO extension. Colony could see some additional opportunities associated with having Tutor-Saliba control the construction process for much of the project. Not sure how that might conflict with an open bidding process often required when using public funds.
Besides the failed AEG bid, Colony and Al Malik have had their share of hits and misses. Colony invested heavily in Station Casinos just as the recession was starting, and Station eventually declared bankruptcy. Al Malik was head of Dubai Aerospace and launched an aggressive strategy to buy (and lease out) a bunch of jumbo jets in 2006. He quit the company in 2008 as DAE floundered. Colony once co-owned the French football club Paris St.-Germain, then flipped it to investors from Qatar two years ago.
There’s a great sense of irony in that much of the criticism of A’s managing partner Lew Wolff is that he’s a “greedy developer” who only wants to make money. Yet who is Oakland bringing in to give Coliseum City a whiff of viability? One of the richest developer/hedge fund groups in the world, Colony Capital. The master developer for Coliseum City appears to be Forest City, the company Brown favored for Uptown condos and apartments instead of a ballpark. When you need big money and expertise, there are only so many places to find it. What are the chances that this group isn’t “greedy”? Slim and none.
Update 12:25 PM – Got a copy of today’s agenda (thanks Matt Artz). The resolution calls for a 12-month extension of the ENA (Exclusive Negotiating Agreement) to figure out the terms of the deal. This comes on the heels of the the original ENA expiring October 21. In addition to the 12 months there would be another 6-month administrative extension option. No additional money would be needed to complete all of the project deliverables, a concern going back from the early summer.
What I have to wonder is what Mark Davis thinks of all of this. While it’s good to have the potential for additional investment to help defray the stadium cost, here’s another case of the JPA/Oakland/Alameda County pushing a deadline out. This time it could go into early 2015 before things are finalized. This doesn’t seem like the kind of urgency that Davis is looking for:
Whether there’s a sense of urgency or not? I know there is on our side. We have to find out how urgent on their side. The picture that’s been drawn is there. We know what needs to get done. It’s just whether it’s going to be able to be done.
It’s Davis, after all, who’s pushing for a long-term lease extension tied to a new stadium development deal. How does this news affect that? Another 2-3 year lease to stay in the game?