The Mercury News
By George Avalos
OAKLAND — CIM Group, a veteran developer, has bought from Uber Technologies the old Sears building in downtown Oakland and plans to complete a wide-ranging renovation of the property, now known as Uptown Station.
“Uptown Station is a rare opportunity and a standout among office properties in the Bay Area for a broad array of large creative office tenants,” said Avi Shemesh, co-founder and principal executive of CIM Group, which also is the primary developer of Jack London Square.
The office and retail building’s access to a BART station at 19th Street, its historic character, wide-open floors on three of the levels, tall ceilings, an interior atrium and abundance of outdoor deck spaces were among the attributes that CIM cited in its purchase. CIM did not disclose the purchase price.
With much fanfare in September 2015, Uber announced it would occupy a vacant, 380,000-square-foot complex that fronts both Telegraph Avenue and Broadway, saying it would undertake a vast reconstruction of the building’s interiors and facade and transform the property into the ride-hailing company’s co-headquarters, along with San Francisco.
“A game changer” was how Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf at the time described Uber’s decision to make downtown Oakland one of its areas of interest. The building at 1955 Broadway totals 380,000 square feet, including 345,000 square feet of offices and 35,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.
Industry watchers believe CIM Group, once the renovations are complete, could successfully market the complex to big tech companies. CIM Group in 2016 bought Jack London Square, located on the waterfront next to downtown Oakland.
If CIM Group does nab big tech tenants, it could draw some backlash from the community.
Oakland nonprofit The Greenlining Institute launched a “#NoUberOakland” campaign earlier this year, hoping to keep Uber out of the city unless it met certain demands.
“We were concerned that Uptown Station could become gentrification station,” said Bruce Mirken, media relations director of the Greenlining Institute, noting the high-end retail and upscale office plans that Uber had touted for the building.
Orson Aguilar, president of the Greenlining Institute, said he wants to see future tenants of the building make commitments to increasing diversity in their workforces and boosting the community of Oakland.
CIM Group did not immediately respond to inquiries about plans for community benefits or future tenants. The developer anticipates renovations of the downtown building will be complete by late 2018.
With the looming departures of the Oakland Raiders and Golden State Warriors from Oakland, along with a murky future for a long-term ballpark for the Oakland A’s, city officials envision the Uptown Station project as a key element for a robust economy in the East Bay’s largest city.
Privately held Uber, though, has since struggled on an array of fronts. The company initially planned to move 2,500 workers to the Uptown Station complex, then scaled back its plans to about 200 or so workers. The company has also curbed its eagerness for big expansions in its home territory of San Francisco, along with its decision to scuttle an East Bay push.
“Uber has found a strong buyer with CIM Group,” said Adony Beniares, Uber’s global head of workforce operations. “We are confident in their vision to bring this historic building back to life.”
Staff writer Annie Sciacca contributed to this report.