After 17 years of planning, re-drafts, and funding stalls, the MacArthur Transit Village Project recently broke ground in Oakland, California, setting in motion a unique and ambitious mixed-use development that has the potential to transform a struggling area into a booming residential and retail spot.
In recent years, the City of Oakland has been incorporating “smart growth” development in order to encourage less automobile operation and utilize the Bay Area’s leading public transportation services by concentrating residential growth where there is pre-existing transit service.
BRIDGE Urban Infill Land Development (BUILD), McGrath Partners, Oakland’s Redevelopment Agency and the Federal Transit Authority joined forces to develop a smart growth transit village at the MacArthur Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station.
The MacArthur BART station is the geographic center of the entire system and services a variety of transit systems, including several AC Transit bus lines, three different hospital shuttles and the Emery Go-Round, a zero-fare bus service in nearby Emeryville.
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Prior to the construction of the MacArthur BART station, the area was made up of three distinct blocks. Streets, houses and businesses were removed in order to make room for the surface parking lot and other station infrastructure. When its surface parking lot was built, it physically divided the local community.
“It’s like a massive, sunken scar in the neighborhood,” says Kathy Kleinbaum, Project Manager at the City of Oakland Redevelopment Agency. “It’s sunken below the ground so it’s not very visible and it’s become a negative space.”
The adjacent Temescal District has struggled commercially, particularly in the blocks closest to the MacArthur station. By repopulating the area and building housing units and retail spaces, the project aims to reconnect and breathe more life into the existing neighborhood.
Construction will rejoin 39th street, which currently comes to a dead end at the parking lot, all the way through to Highway 24 and create more circulation in the area.
Phase one of the two-phase project includes the demolition of two motels in the area and the building of a new parking garage.
When all is said and done, several massive infrastructure elements will be completed, including new public roadways, sewer upgrades and multi-modal improvements. A total of five buildings will be constructed in the space, creating 624 housing units (100 of which will be offered as affordable housing below market rates) and more than 42,000 square feet of commercial and retail space.
The entire project aims to be one of the first projects to be awarded Platinum-level LEED Neighborhood Development Certification, a new pilot program that looks at a project’s entire site plan, including landscaping, water filtration and connections to transit in addition to buildings.
Through every step of the MacArthur Transit Village Project’s journey to commencement, the community understands the project’s potential and has shown full support.
“This project is recreating a historic portion of the street grid that once was there,” says Kleinbaum. “Putting people there makes a lot more sense than a giant surface parking lot.”